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 Guide  for  How  to  Inspect  HVAC  

Systems  Course  
This  study  guide  can  help  you:  
• take  notes;  
• read  and  study  offline;    
• organize  information;  and    
• prepare  for  assignments  and  assessments.  
As  a  member  of  InterNACHI,  you  may  check  your  education  folder,  transcript,  and  
course  completions  by  logging  into  your  Members-­‐Only  Account  at  
To  purchase  textbooks  (printed  and  electronic),  visit  InterNACHI’s  ecommerce  
partner  Inspector  Outlet  at  www.inspectoroutlet.com.    
Copyright  ©  2007-­‐2015  International  Association  of  Certified  Home  Inspectors,  Inc.  

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Student  Verification  &  Interactivity  
Student  Verification  

By  enrolling  in  this  course,  the  student  hereby  attests  that  s/he  is  the  person  
completing  all  coursework.  S/he  understands  that  having  another  person  complete  
the  coursework  for  him  or  her  is  fraudulent  and  will  result  in  being  denied  course  
completion  and  corresponding  credit  hours.  

The  course  provider  reserves  the  right  to  make  contact  

as  necessary  to  verify  the  integrity  of  any  information  
submitted  or  communicated  by  the  student.  The  student  
agrees  not  to  duplicate  or  distribute  any  part  of  this  
copyrighted  work  or  provide  other  parties  with  the  
answers  or  copies  of  the  assessments  that  are  part  of  this  
course.  If  plagiarism  or  copyright  infringement  is  proven,  
the  student  will  be  notified  of  such  and  barred  from  the  
course  and/or  have  his/her  credit  hours  and/or  
certification  revoked.  

Communication  on  the  message  board  or  forum  shall  be  of  the  person  completing  all  

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The  goal  of  this  course  is  to  provide  accurate  and  useful  information  for  performing  
an  inspection  of  the  HVAC  system  at  a  residential  property.    This  course  covers  the  
components  of  common  residential  HVAC  systems,  including:    warm-­‐air,  hydronic,  
steam  and  electric  heating  systems;  air-­‐conditioning  systems;  and  heat  pump  

Learning  Objectives  
The  inspector  will  demonstrate  a  practical  understanding  and  comprehension  of  
this  course  by  reading  and  studying  the  material,  taking  the  practice  quizzes  at  the  
end  of  selected  sections,  and  taking  this  course  in  its  entirety  and  successfully  
passing  a  timed  online  exam.    After  successful  completion  of  this  course,  the  student  
will  be  able  to  perform  an  inspection  of  the  HVAC  system  of  a  residential    property,  
according  to  InterNACHI's  Standards  of  Practice  for  Performing  a  General  Home  

Section  3  of  this  course  lists  the  relevant  section  of  the  InterNACHI  Residential  
Standards  of  Practice  pertaining  to  HVAC  inspections.    The  full  text  of  the  
Standards  can  be  found  at  http://www.nachi.org/sop.htm.  

Section  1:  Inspection  Tools  

Inspection  Tools  
There  are  many  tools  that  can  be  used  when  inspecting  an  HVAC  system  during  
residential  and  commercial  property  inspections.  

A  flashlight  is  handy  when  inspecting  the  HVAC  system.    The  outdoor  condenser  unit  
may  be  in  dark  shade,  under  dense  vegetation,  or  under  a  structural  covering,  such  
as  a  deck  or  balcony.    Inside  the  house,  the  HVAC  system  may  be  located  in  an  attic,  
crawlspace  or  dark  basement.    

The  inspection  of  the  internal  components  of  the  system  may  require  illumination  
for  some  instances,  including:  

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• looking  at  the  ribbon  burners  inside  the  combustion  chamber;  
• looking  at  the  interior  of  the  combustion  chamber  through  a  viewing  portal;  
• looking  at  the  air-­‐filtering  system  that  is  installed  inside  the  ductwork.  

Moisture  Meter  
A  moisture  meter  is  used  to  detect  and  confirm  moisture.    It  could  be  used  to  
confirm  water  and  condensation  problems,  and  to  confirm  that  a  building  material  is  
saturated  with  water.    High-­‐efficiency  condensing  HVAC  systems  produce  excessive  
condensate,  and  that  water  needs  to  be  controlled  and  discharged.    Oftentimes,  
there  are  condensate  lines  or  sweating  suction  lines  that  leak  onto  building  
materials.    Those  leaks  might  be  confirmed  with  the  use  of  a  moisture  meter.    There  
are  meters  that  are  non-­‐invasive  and  meters  that  have  invasive  probes.    Learn  how  
to  inspect  for  moisture  during  a  property  inspection  
at  http://www.nachi.org/moisturecourse.htm.  
Infrared  Camera  
You  should  be  professionally  trained  and  certified  to  use  an  infrared  
camera.    Thermography  is  an  effective  means  of  inspecting  for  water  leaks  and  
moisture  problems.    To  take  InterNACHI's    introductory  video  course  on  infrared  
thermography,  please  visit  http://www.nachi.org/inspection-­‐video-­‐infrared-­‐

Tape  Measure  
A  tape  measure  can  be  used  to  measure  the  slope  of  a  flue  connector  pipe,  the  height  
of  a  chimney  stack  above  the  roof  surface,  and  the  clearance  around  the  outdoor  
condenser  unit  from  other  structures.  

Screwdriver,  Awl  or  Probe  

An  awl  or  probe  of  some  kind  can  be  used  to  check  for  wood  rot  and  damage  caused    


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by  a  leak  from  a  condensing  unit.    A  screwdriver  may  be  needed  to  remove  an  access  
panel  or  cover  at  the  HVAC  system.  
Binoculars  can  be  used  to  look  where  physical,  up-­‐close  access  is  restricted.    If  an  air  
conditioner  is  installed  inside  an  attic,  the  water-­‐leak  catch  pan  typically  has  a  
drainpipe  discharge  at  the  eaves  area.    This  drainpipe  may  not  be  readily  visible  
from  the  ground  without  binoculars.  
A  ladder  can  be  used  to  gain  access  to  those  higher-­‐up  areas  that  are  not  readily  
accessible  or  visible  from  ground  level.  
A  magnet  can  be  used  to  tell  the  difference  between  aluminum  pipes  and  steel  
pipes,  and  galvanized  steel  flashing  from  copper  flashing.  
Coveralls  or  overalls  protect  your  clothes.  These  are  handy  when  moving  through  a  
crawlspace  and  for  inspecting  under  a  low  deck  or  porch.  
You  can  put  on  some  shoe  booties  prior  to  entering  the  house  you're  
inspecting.    Booties  protect  the  floors.    This  demonstrates  care  and  consideration  for  
your  client's  property.  
Protect  yourself.    Use  personal  protection  equipment  (PPE),  including  a  simple  pair  
of  gloves.    Gloves  will  protect  your  hands  from  insect  bites,  scratches  from  
vegetation,  dirt  and  soil,  debris,  splinters,  and  cuts  from  sharp  edges  of  the  HVAC  

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It  is  important  to  protect  your  knees  while  crawling  around,  particularly  when  the  
ground  surface  is  rough  and  covered  with  rocks  and  stones.    Kneepads  are  handy  
when  kneeling  in  front  of  the  HVAC  system  and  conducting  your  inspection.  

Section  2:  Inspection  Procedures  

Inspection  Procedures  
Many  inspectors  start  their  home  inspection  by  inspecting  the  exterior  first.    The  
exterior  inspection  may  include  the  HVAC  system.    For  example,  a  home  that  has  a  
fuel-­‐fired  heating  system  requires  venting  of  its  combustion  gases  and  byproducts  
to  the  outside.    The  chimney  stack  or  flue  exhaust  pipes  will  need  to  be  
inspected.  While  you  are  conducting  your  roof  inspection,  you'll  need  to  check  the  
chimney  and/or  flue  pipes  that  penetrate  or  come  in  contact  with  the  roof  
system.    When  inspecting  the  exterior  grounds,  you  may  stop  at  the  outside  
condenser  unit  and  shift  gears  from  inspecting  the  exterior  to  inspecting  the  HVAC  
system.    It  is  up  to  the  inspector  to  choose  the  path  to  take  when  inspecting  the  
systems  of  the  house.    Do  you  inspect  the  exterior  components  of  the  HVAC  system  
while  you  are  inspecting  the  exterior  of  the  house?  

Step  Back  
Figure  out  the  various  components  of  the  house  by  stepping  back.    Identify  the  
location  of  some  of  the  systems,  such  as  the  electrical  service,  HVAC  unit,  chimney  
structures,  plumbing  entrance,  landscaping  features,  property  boundaries,  shared  
utilities  or  components,  inspection  restrictions,  and  other  features  and  systems.  

Move  Closer  
Next,  move  closer  to  the  house  and  get  a  better  look.    Many  inspectors  follow  the  
front  walk  or  driveway  that  leads  to  the  house  as  they  approach.    You  may  choose  a    


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clockwise  direction  to  move  around  the  perimeter  of  the  house.    In  this  close-­‐up  
inspection  of  the  exterior,  you  are  looking  for  details  of  the  HVAC  system.    Is  there  
an  air-­‐conditioning  unit?    Are  there  window  or  through-­‐wall  air-­‐conditioner  
units?    If  there’s  a  chimney,  is  there  a  heating  system  connected  to  it?    Where  does  
the  air  conditioner’s  condensate  discharge?    Get  behind  vegetation,  and  look  under,  
crawl  under,  reach  up,  look  into,  and  touch,  measure  and  probe.  

The  exterior,  including  the  roof  system  and  exterior  HVAC  components,  may  take  
up  a  third  of  the  total  time  of  the  home  inspection.  

Water  (or  moisture)  is  one  of  the  main  concerns  when  inspecting  the  HVAC  
system.  Think  about  water;  it  is  the  greatest  destroyer  of  houses.    Look  for  
breaches  and  holes  in  the  siding  where  the  exterior  HVAC  components  are  
located.    If  the  system  is  producing  condensate,  figure  out  where  it  goes  and  how  it’s  
being  managed.    For  example,  a  suction  line  of  an  operating  air-­‐conditioning  system  
that  is  not  insulated  properly  may  produce  excessive  condensate  and  humidity,  
under  certain  conditions.  Pay  attention  to  excessive  humidity  levels  that  may  be  
produced  by  a  maladjusted  component.  

Section  3:  InterNACHI  SOP  

This  section  covers  the  InterNACHI  Residential  Standards  of  Practice  for  Performing  
a  General  Home  Inspection  and  how  they  relate  to  the  items  and  conditions  an  
inspector  may  observe  while  inspecting  the  HVAC  system  at  a  residential  
property.    At  the  end  of  this  section,  you  should  be  able  to:  

• list  at  least  four  things  an  inspector  is  required  to  inspect;  and  
• list  at  least  four  things  an  inspector  is  not  required  to  inspect.    

1.  Definitions  and  Scope  

1.1.    A  general  home  inspection  is  a  non-­‐invasive,  visual  examination  of  the  
accessible  areas  of  a  residential  property  (as  delineated  below),  performed  for  a  fee,  
which  is  designed  to  identify  defects  within  specific  systems  and  components  
defined  by  these  Standards  that  are  both  observed  and  deemed  material  by  the  
inspector.    The  scope  of  work  may  be  modified  by  the  Client  and  Inspector  prior  
to  the  inspection  process.  

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I. The  general  home  inspection  is  based  on  the  observations  made  on  
the  date  of  the  inspection,  and  not  a  prediction  of  future  conditions.    

II. The  general  home  inspection  will  not  reveal  every  issue  that  exists  or  
ever  could  exist,  but  only  those  material  defects  observed  on  the  date  
of  the  inspection.  

1.2.    A  material  defect  is  a  specific  issue  with  a  system  or  component  of  a  
residential  property  that  may  have  a  significant,  adverse  impact  on  the  value  of  the  
property,  or  that  poses  an  unreasonable  risk  to  people.    The  fact  that  a  system  or  
component  is  near,  at  or  beyond  the  end  of  its  normal  useful  life  is  not,  in  itself,  a  
material  defect.  

1.3.    A  general  home  inspection  report  shall  identify,  in  written  format,  defects  
within  specific  systems  and  components  defined  by  these  Standards  that  are  both  
observed  and  deemed  material  by  the  inspector.    Inspection  reports  may  include  
additional  comments  and  recommendations.    
3.4.  Heating  
I.  The  inspector  shall  inspect:  

A. the  heating  system,  using  normal  operating  controls;  

B. the  heating  method;  and  
C. the  energy  source.  

II.  The  inspector  shall  report:  

A. as  in  need  of  correction  heating  systems  that  did  not  operate;  
B. if  the  heating  system  was  deemed  inaccessible.  

III.  The  inspector  is  not  required  to:  

A. inspect  or  evaluate  the  interior  of  flues  or  chimneys,  fire  
chambers,  heat  exchangers,  combustion  air  systems,  fresh-­‐air  
intakes,  humidifiers,  dehumidifiers,  electronic  air  filters,  
geothermal  systems,  or  solar  heating  systems.  
B. inspect  fuel  tanks  or  underground  or  concealed  fuel  supply  
C. determine  the  uniformity,  temperature,  flow,  balance,  
distribution,  size,  capacity,  BTU,  or  supply  adequacy  of  the  
heating  system.    

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D. light  or  ignite  pilot  flames.    
E. activate  heating,  heat  pump  systems,  or  other  heating  systems  
when  ambient  temperatures  or  other  circumstances  are  not  
conducive  to  safe  operation  or  may  damage  the  equipment.    
F. override  electronic  thermostats.    
G. evaluate  fuel  quality.  
H. verify  thermostat  calibration,  heat  anticipation,  or  automatic  
setbacks,  timers,  programs  or  clocks.  

3.5.  Cooling  
I.  The  inspector  shall  inspect:  

A. the  central  cooling  equipment  using  normal  operating  controls;  

B. the  cooling  method.  

II.  The  inspector  shall  report:  

A. as  in  need  of  correction  cooling  systems  that  did  not  operate;  
B. if  the  cooling  system  was  deemed  inaccessible.  

III.  The  inspector  is  not  required  to:  

A. determine  the  uniformity,  temperature,  flow,  balance,  

distribution,  size,  capacity,  BTU,  or  supply  adequacy  of  the  
cooling  system.  
B. inspect  portable  window  units,  through-­‐wall  units,  or  
electronic  air  filters.    
C. operate  equipment  or  systems  if  the  exterior  temperature  is  
below  65°  Fahrenheit,  or  when  other  circumstances  are  not  
conducive  to  safe  operation  or  may  damage  the  equipment.    
D. inspect  or  determine  thermostat  calibration,  cooling  
anticipation,  or  automatic  setbacks  or  clocks.    


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A. examine  electrical  current,  coolant  fluids  or  gases,  or  coolant  leakage.        

Comments  on  the  SOP  

Home  inspectors  are  not  HVAC  technicians  or  
experts.    We  are  not  indoor  air-­‐quality  experts.    We  
are  property  inspectors  performing  a  property  
inspection  according  to  an  established  standard.    We  
are  substantially  complying  with  the  InterNACHI  
Residential  Standards  of  Practice.    We  are  employing  
the  best  non-­‐invasive,  visual-­‐only  inspection  
techniques  to  perform  the  inspection  of  the  HVAC  

The  inspection  is  not  technically  exhaustive.    That  

means  that  the  inspection  is  not  a  comprehensive  
and  detailed  examination  beyond  the  scope  of  a  
property  inspection  that  would  involve  or  include,  but  would  not  be  limited  to:  
dismantling,  specialized  knowledge  or  training,  special  equipment,  measurements,  
calculations,  testing,  research,  analysis,  or  other  means.  

Consider  communicating  to  your  client  that  there  may  be  problems  with  the  
property  that  exist  during  the  inspection  that  will  not  be  found  or  discovered  
because  they  are  beyond  the  scope  of  the  home  inspection.  

We  inspect  the  heating  and  cooling  systems  that  are  permanently  installed  at  the  
property.    This  means  that  we  have  to  visually  look  at  readily  accessible  systems  and  
components  safely,  using  normal  operating  controls,  and  accessing  readily  
accessible  panels  and  areas  in  accordance  with  the  Standards  of  
Practice.    Something  is  accessible  if  it  can  be  approached  or  entered  by  the  inspector  
safely,  without  difficulty,  fear  or  danger.  

A  component  is  a  permanently  installed  or  attached  fixture,  element  or  part  of  a  
system.    A  blower  fan  of  a  forced  warm-­‐air  furnace  is  one  example  of  a  component  of  
the  heating  system.  

We  can  activate  a  component.  Activating  means  to  turn  on,  supply  power,  or  enable  
systems,  equipment  or  devices  to  become  active  by  normal  operating  controls.    An  
example  of  this  is  turning  on  only  the  blower  fan  using  the  thermostat  control.  

The  condition  of  a  component  is  the  visible  and  conspicuous  state  of  being  of  an  
object.    An  inspector  can  report  the  component’s  condition  as  being  functional.    A  
component  can  be  functional,  or  performing,  or  able  to  perform  a  function.    A  
physically  damaged  blower  fan  is  a  component  in  a  condition  that  is  not  functional.    

  Page 11 of 141    
In  the  inspection  report,  we  can  describe,  in  written  format,  a  system  or  
component  by  its  type  or  other  observed  characteristics  in  order  to  distinguish  it  
from  other  components  used  for  the  same  purpose.  

An  inspector  is  required  to  describe  and  identify,  in  written  format,  material  
defects  observed.    A  material  defect  is  a  condition  of  a  residential  real  property  or  
any  portion  of  it  that  would  have  a  significant,  adverse  impact  on  the  value  of  the  
real  property,  or  that  involves  an  unreasonable  risk  to  people  on  the  property.    

The  inspector  shall  inspect  the  heating  systems  using  normal  operating  controls.  
There  are  a  few  controls  on  a  typical  heating  system,  including  the  thermostat  and  
service  shut-­‐off  switch.  

We  should  be  able  to  describe  the  energy  source.    The  heating  system  may  use  a  
variety  of  fuels,  including  electricity.  We  should  describe  the  heating  
method.    There  are  several  ways  a  heating  system  can  distribute  heat  energy  to  the  
rooms  and  spaces  of  a  building.    Inspectors  need  to  inspect  and  be  able  to  describe,  
in  writing,  how  the  system  
supplies  heat  to  the  
building.    One  example  may  
be  that  the  heating  system  
is  described  as  having  No.  2  
fuel  oil  as  the  energy  
source,  and  the  system  is  a  
forced  warm-­‐air  heating  
system  that  uses  a  blower  
fan  to  distribute  air  through  
the  ducts  or  pipes.    

ITEM  A:  A  mechanical  

draft-­‐venting  system  shall  
terminate  at  least  3  feet  above  any  forced-­‐air  inlet  located  within  10  feet.  

ITEM  B:  The  vent  terminal  of  a  direct-­‐vent  appliance  with  an  input  of  10,000  BTU  
per  hour  or  less  must  be  located  at  least  6  inches  from  any  air  opening  into  a  
building.  If  the  input  is  over  10,000  BTU  per  hour  but  not  over  50,000  BTU  per  hour,  
the  vent  termination  must  be  located  at  least  9  inches  from  any  air  opening.  If  the  


  Page 12 of 141    
 input  is  over  50,000  BTU  per  hour,  the  vent  termination  must  be  located  at  least  12  
inches  from  any  air  opening.  The  bottom  of  the  vent  terminal  and  air  intake  must  be  
at  least  12  inches  above  grade.  

ITEM  C:  Vents,  excluding  direct-­‐vent  appliances,  shall  terminate  at  least  4  feet  
below,  4  feet  horizontally  from,  or  1  foot  above  any  door,  operable  window,  or  
gravity  air  inlet  into  any  building.  The  bottom  of  the  vent  terminal  shall  be  located  at  
least  12  inches  above  grade.  

You  are  required  to  inspect  the  central  cooling  equipment  using  normal  operating  
controls,  which  include  the  thermostat  and  service  shut-­‐off  switches.    A  
portable  window  or  through-­‐wall  air-­‐conditioning  unit  is  not  considered  a  central  
cooling  system.    You  do  not  have  to  inspect  a  window,  through-­‐wall  or  portable  air  
conditioner  unless  it  is  permanently  installed  and  hard-­‐wired  into  the  electrical  
system,  or  unless  your  state's  SOP  requires  that  you  do.  

We  are  not  required  to  use  a  ladder  to  inspect  a  house.    Many  inspectors  use  
binoculars  to  get  a  better  look  at  components  that  are  above  their  heads.    When  
moving  around  the  house,  look  up  and  inspect  the  eaves,  soffits  and  fascia  
components.    If  a  heating  or  cooling  system  is  installed  in  an  attic  space  and  the  unit  
is  producing  condensate,  you  will  find  a  condensate  drain  line  coming  from  the  
eaves  and  discharging  to  the  exterior.    That  small  pipe  may  be  difficult  to  see  from  
the  ground  without  the  use  of  binoculars.  

If  a  heating  or  cooling  system  does  not  turn  on  or  does  not  operate,  the  inspector  
should  note  that  in  the  inspection  report.    We  are  not  required  to  ignite  a  pilot  flame  
or  turn  on  a  system  that  has  been  turned  off.    If  you  believe  that  activating  an  HVAC  
system  may  actually  cause  damage  to  the  system,  you  are  not  required  to  turn  it  
on.    For  example,  the  Standards  specifically  state  that  if  the  temperature  is  below  
65°  F,  or  when  other  circumstances  are  not  conducive  to  the  safe  operation  of  the  
cooling  system,  you  are  not  required  to  activate  and  inspect  the  cooling  system.  

If  the  heating  or  cooling  system  is  deemed  to  be  inaccessible,  the  inspector  should  
report  it  as  such.    There  may  be  a  condenser  unit  on  top  of  a  flat  roof.    If  that  roof  is  
inaccessible  to  the  inspector,  then  so  is  the  condenser  unit.    The  inspector  should  
report  how  or  why  the  particular  system  or  component  of  that  system  was  not  

Inspection  reports  may  include  recommendations  regarding  conditions  reported,  

or  recommendations  for  correction,  monitoring  or  further  evaluation  by  
professionals,  but  this  is  not  required.  

We  are  not  required  to  inspect  the  interior  of  flues  and  chimneys,  fire  chambers,  
heat  exchangers,  or  combustion-­‐air  systems.    Most  of  the  internal  components  of  a  
heating  system  are  beyond  the  scope  of  a  home  inspection.    

  Page 13 of 141    
Humidifiers  and  dehumidifiers  are  beyond  the  scope  of  a  home  inspection.    We  are  
not  required  to  inspect  them.    Problems  that  are  found  at  the  heating  system  are  
sometimes  caused  by  a  failure  at  the  humidifier.  Humidifiers  involve  a  lot  of  
moisture,  water  and  condensate.    If  the  humidifier  is  malfunctioning,  it  could  have  a  
deleterious  impact  on  the  heating  system.  

Geothermal  and  solar  heating  systems  are  not  part  of  a  home  inspection,  according  
to  the  Standards.      

You  do  not  have  to  inspect  the  fuel  storage  tank  if  it  is  buried  underground,  but  you  
are  required  to  describe  any  visible  fuel  storage  systems.  

Inspectors  do  not  have  to  

determine  the  balance  of  the  
system,  its  BTU  capacity,  its  size,  
or  its  ability  to  adequately  
supply  heated  or  cooled  air  to  
the  building.    You  are  not  
required  to  determine    the  size,  
BTU  or  tonnage  of  the  air-­‐
conditioning  system,  according  
to  the  InterNACHI  Standards  of  

If  the  heating  system  is  a  boiler,  

the  inspector  should  verify  the  presence  or  absence  of  temperature/pressure-­‐relief  
valves  and/or  Watts  210  valves.  You  are  not  required  to  test,  operate,  open  or  close  
safety  controls,  manual  stop  valves,  and/or  temperature  or  pressure-­‐relief  valves.  

At  hydronic  heating  systems,  you  do  not  have  to  inspect  water  storage  tanks,  
pressure  pumps,  or  bladder  tanks.    On  boiler  systems,  you  do  not  have  to  determine  
the  effectiveness  of  anti-­‐siphon  or  back-­‐flow  prevention  devices.  

Electronic  air  filters  can  be  dangerous  to  inspect  if  they  are  not  safely  wired  or  
properly  installed.    You  are  not  required  to  inspect  electronic  air-­‐filtering  devices.  


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A  general  home  inspection  does  not  include  outbuildings.  If  there  is  a  heating  or  
cooling  system  in  an  outbuilding,  many  inspectors  will  note  the  existence  of  the  
system  and  that  the  additional  structure,  which  includes  the  HVAC  system,  is  
beyond  the  scope  of  the  inspection.  Many  inspectors  charge  an  additional  fee  to  
inspect  outbuildings.  

In  summary,  an  inspector  should  be  able  to  inspect  and  describe  the  heating  and  
cooling  systems.    An  inspection  report  shall  describe  and  identify,  in  written  format,  
the  inspected  heating  and  cooling  systems  and  components  of  the  dwelling,  and  the  
material  defects  observed.  Inspection  reports  may  include  recommendations  for  
the  correction,  monitoring,  and/or  further  evaluation  by  professionals  for  
conditions  reported,  but  this  is  not  required  by  InterNACHI's  SOP.  

Quiz  1  
T/F:  A  home  inspection  is  a  non-­‐invasive,  visual  examination  of  a  residential  

• True  
• False  

T/F:  A  home  inspector  is  required  to  describe  the  energy  source.  

• True  
• False  

T/F:  A  home  inspector  is  not  required  to  describe  the  heating  method.  

• False  
• True  

T/F:  The  inspector  is  required  to  inspect  window  and  through-­‐wall  air-­‐conditioning  

• False  
• True  

Section  4:  Introduction  to  HVAC  

Introduction  to  HVAC  
This  is  a  training  course  on  the  principles  of  heating,  ventilating  and  air  conditioning  
(HVAC)  for  residential  and  commercial  property  inspectors.    Heating,  ventilation  

  Page 15 of 141    
and  air  conditioning  are  each  used  in  an  attempt  to  control  the  environment  within  
an  enclosure,  whether  it  is  a  room,  space,  or  a  dwelling.    

People  have  been  attempting  to  control  heat  and  ventilation  since  prehistoric  
times.    Over  the  many  centuries,  the  technology  of  heating  has  advanced  from  
simple  attempts  to  keep  the  body  warm  to  very  sophisticated  systems.    Ventilation  
has  been  used  for  a  very  long  time  as  well,  dating  back  to  the  time  when  royalty  was  
cooled  by  servants  and  slaves  fanning  them  using  large  palm  fronds  and  feathers.    

Ventilation  became  important  during  the  Industrial  Revolution  in  order  to  protect  
workers  and  increase  their  productivity,  as  
well  as  the  efficiency  of  machinery.    

Air  conditioning  is  a  relatively  recent  

development,  and  involves  the  control  of  
temperature,  humidity  and  air  cleanliness.    It  
wasn’t  until  after  1945  that  the  use  of  air  
conditioning  or  simple  cooling  of  the  air  
became  widespread.    Modern  air-­‐
conditioning  systems  have  greatly  evolved  
from  the  times  of  simply  hanging  wet  towels  
across  an  open  window.    

Today,  air-­‐conditioning  systems  do  not  

simply  cool  the  air,  but  they  actually  
condition  it  by  controlling  the  air's  
temperature,  moisture  content,  movement  
and  cleanliness.    

Understanding  the  basics  of  heating,  

ventilating  and  air  conditioning  is  
essential  for  a  property  inspector.  



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Section  5:  Heat  Fundamentals  
Heat  Fundamentals  
There  are  essentially  three  ways  that  heat  moves  from  one  area  to  another.    When  
bodies  of  unequal  temperatures  are  near  each  other,  heat  leaves  one  body  and  goes  
to  the  other.    Heat  moves  from  the  hotter  body,  and  the  colder  body  absorbs  it.  The  
greater  the  difference  in  temperature,  the  greater  the  rate  of  flow  of  the  heat.    

Heat  moves  from  one  body  to  another  by  the  following  ways:  

• radiation;  
• conduction;  and  
• convection.  

Radiation  is  the  transfer  of  heat  energy  by  electromagnetic  wave  motion.    Heat  is  
transferred  in  direct  rays.    It  travels  in  a  straight  line  from  the  source  to  the  
body.    The  closer  you  are  to  the  hot  object,  the  warmer  you  feel.    The  intensity  of  the  
heat  radiated  from  the  object  decreases  as  the  distance  from  the  object  increases.    

You  feel  cool  in  a  room  that  has  a  cold  floor,  walls  and  ceiling.    The  amount  of  heat  
loss  from  your  body  in  that  room  depends  on  the  relative  temperature  of  the  objects  
in  that  room.    The  colder  the  floor  is  (relative  to  the  temperature  of  your  feet),  the  
greater  the  heat  loss  from  your  body  will  be  by  just  standing  there.    If  the  floor,  walls  
and  ceiling  of  that  room  are  relatively  warmer  than  your  body  temperature,  then  
heat  will  be  radiated  to  your  body  from  those  objects  and  surfaces.    

  Page 17 of 141    
Radiant  heating  in  residential  buildings  includes  piping  and  electrical  wiring  in  
floors,  walls  and  ceilings.    Radiant  heat  emits  in  all  directions.    Reflective  materials  
are  commonly  used  in  a  radiant  heat-­‐emitting  system  in  order  to  direct  and  control  
where  the  heat  is  emitted.  

Conduction  is  the  transfer  of  heat  from  one  molecule  to  another,  or  through  one  
substance  to  another.    It  is  heat  that  moves  from  one  body  to  another  by  direct  
contact.    For  example,  heat  is  transferred  by  conduction  from  a  hot  boiler  heat  
exchanger  to  the  cooler  water  passing  through  it.    When  you  touch  a  suction  line  of  
an  air  conditioner  and  it  feels  cool,  that’s  heat  energy  moving  from  your  warm  hand  
to  the  cooler  copper  tube  via  conduction.    

Convection  is  known  by  most  people  from  the  phrase  “heat  rises.”    Convection  is  the  
transfer  of  heat  by  warming  the  air  next  to  a  hot  surface,  and  then  moving  that  
warm  air.    It’s  the  transfer  of  heat  by  the  motion  of  the  heated  matter  itself.    The  air  
moves  from  one  place  to  another,  carrying  heat  along  with  it.    Since  warm  air  is  
lighter  than  the  cool  air  around  it,  the  warm  air  (or  heat)  rises.  

Warm  fluids  tend  to  rise  while  the  surrounding  cool  fluids  fall.    This  rising-­‐and-­‐
falling  action  forms  loops  -­‐-­‐  convective  loops  -­‐-­‐  where  warm  air  rises  and  cool  air  
falls.    Early  warm-­‐air  gravity  furnaces  used  the  principles  of  convective  loops.    In  a  
gravity  system,  the  warm  air  rises  and  cool  air  falls,  and  this  is  how  the  gravity  
warm-­‐air  heating  system  circulated  air.    

Forced-­‐air  furnaces  function  primarily  by  convection.    Heat  is  transferred  to  the  air,  
and  the  air  is  circulated  throughout  the  house.    Systems  that  heat  water  and  use  
radiators  and  baseboards  as  their  heat-­‐emitting  devices  operate  via  convection  and,  
to  a  lesser  extent,  radiation.    

A  radiator  needs  air  to  be  moving  freely  around  it  in  order  to  work  effectively.    A  
cover  on  a  radiator  may  reduce  the  air  flow  around  and  through  the  radiator  unit.      


  Page 18 of 141    
Quiz  2  
T/F:  Heat  moves  from  the  warmer  body,  and  the  colder  body  absorbs  it.  

• True  
• False  

Heat  can  move  from  one  body  to  another  by  _________.  

• radiation  
• capacitation  
• ionization  

Forced-­‐air  furnaces  function  primarily  by  ________.  

• convection  
• radiation  
• conduction  

Section  6:  Identify  and  Describe  

Identify  and  Describe  Heating  Systems  
According  to  the  InterNACHI  Standards  of  Practice,  a  home  inspector  shall  identify  
and  describe,  in  written  format,  the  inspected  systems  and  components  of  the  
dwelling.    In  the  following  sections,  we  will  learn  that  most  heating  systems  can  be  
identified  and  described  in  just  four  ways.  
Heating  Systems      
There  are  many  different  types  of  heating  systems.    Each  has  its  own  characteristics  
that  can  be  noted  by  a  property  inspector  to  identify  and  describe  the  type  of  
heating  system  being  inspected.    

Most  of  these  heating  systems  can  be  described  according  to  one  or  more  of  the  
following  broad  categories:  

• the  heat-­‐conveying  medium;  

• the  fuel  used;  
• the  nature  of  the  heat;  and  
• the  efficiency  and  capacity  of  the  system.  

  Page 19 of 141    

The  heat-­‐conveying  medium  is  what  carries  the  heat  from  the  source  to  the  
enclosure  being  heated.    The  fuel  used  is  a  distinguishing  characteristic  of  a  heating  
system.    Wood,  coal,  oil  and  gas  are  used  to  produce  heat.    Electricity  may  be  
considered  a  fuel,  but  it  can  also  be  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium.    The  nature  of  the  
heat  is  also  a  distinguishing  characteristic.    For  example,  it  could  be  steam,  or  heat  
produced  by  combustion.    The  efficiency  and  capacity  of  the  heating  system  can  be  
cited  to  distinguish  one  heating  system  from  another.    

These  four  categories  alone  are  not  enough  for  most  inspectors  to  
sufficiently  identify  and  describe  the  type  of  heating  system  that  they  are  
inspecting.    The  inspectors'  use  of  these  categories  and  terms  may  be  confusing  to  
their  clients.    Other  distinguishing  characteristics  and  details  are  needed  in  order  to  
identify  and  describe  different  types  of  heating  systems  in  a  concise  manner  that  is  
specific  to  the  property,  as  well  as  easily  understood.    Let’s  take  a  look  at  how  
heating  systems  can  be  identified  and  described  in  more  detail,  according  to  heat-­‐
conveying  mediums.  
Heat-­‐Conveying  Mediums  
For  most  inspectors,  describing  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium  is  one  of  the  main  ways  
to  identify  and  describe  different  types  of  heating  systems.    There  are  four  heat-­‐
conveying  mediums  that  can  carry  heat.    They  are:  

• air;  
• water;  
• steam;  and  
• electricity.  

For  example,  if  the  heating  system  is  a  high-­‐efficiency,  gas-­‐fired  furnace,  then  the  
heat-­‐conveying  medium  is  air.    The  inspector  would  use  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium  
as  part  of  the  identification  and  description  of  the  heating  system.    In  this  example,  
the  description  would  be  a  warm-­‐air  heating  system  or,  even  more  accurately,  a  gas  
warm-­‐air  furnace.      


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Four  Types  of  Heating  Systems  
Taking  the  previously  listed  four  common  heat-­‐conveying  mediums  into  
consideration,  most  heating  systems  can  be  identified  and  described  by  a  property  
inspector  using  the  following  four  terms:    

• warm-­‐air  heating  system;  

• hydronic  heating  system;  
• steam  heating  system;  and  
• electric  heating  system.  

Most  heating  systems  can  be  described  in  these  four  ways.    They  can  be  accurately  
identified  and  described  using  these  terms,  which  are  based  on  the  four  heat-­‐
conveying  mediums:  air,  water,  steam,  and  electricity.    The  classification  of  a  heating  
system  based  on  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium  is  a  convenient  method  for  property  
inspectors  to  use  because  it  includes  the  vast  majority  of  heating  systems  that  are  
manufactured  and  used  today.  
Heating  Fuels  
An  inspector  should  describe  the  energy  source  or  the  type  of  heating  fuel  in  the  
inspection  report.    This  additional  information  is  valuable  to  the  inspector’s  
client.    Specifying  the  type  of  heating  fuel  being  used  by  the  heating  system  helps  in  
defining  and  distinguishing  the  type  of  heating  system  being  inspected.    

There  are  several  types  of  heating  fuels  that  are  being  used  today  by  most  heating  

• fuel  oil  (No.  2);  

• natural  gas;  
• propane;  
• coal;  
• electricity;  
• wood;  
• kerosene;  and  
• pellets.  

Stating  the  type  of  heating  fuel  being  used  is  essential  to  accurately  identifying  and  
describing  the  inspected  heating  systems.    



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Quiz  3  
T/F:  You  may  be  able  to  describe  a  heating  system  by  its  heat-­‐conveying  medium.  

• True  
• False  

T/F:  Steam  is  considered  a  heat-­‐conveying  medium.  

• True  
• False  

Most  heating  systems  can  be  categorized  in  _____  ways.  

• four  
• two  
• six  

T/F:  "Hydronic"  describes  a  type  of  heating  system.  

• True  
• False  

Section  7:  Gas,  Gas  Meters  and  Gas  

Gas,  Gas  Meters  and  Gas  Pipes    
Natural  Gas  
Natural  gas  has  no  color  or  odor,  
and  it’s  not  toxic.    It  is,  
however,  highly  combustible.    It  
only  smells  because  a  scent  has  
been  added  to  it  in  order  to  help  
us  identify  gas  leaks.    Natural  gas  
has  a  specific  gravity  of  about  
0.6.    Air  has  a  specific  gravity  of  
1.    Natural  gas  is  lighter  than  
air.    Propane  has  a  specific  
gravity  of  1.5.    A  propane  leak  

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tends  to  pool  on  the  floor,  which  creates  a  dangerous  situation.    

To  ignite  natural  gas,  you  need  a  mixture  of  gas  and  air  that  is  conducive  to  
ignition.    If  you  have  too  little  air  in  the  mix,  the  gas  will  not  ignite.    If  you  have  too  
much  air,  the  gas  will  not  ignite.    You  have  to  have  between  about  86%  air  to  94%  of  
air  mixed  with  a  certain  gas  volume  to  get  the  gas  to  ignite.    Once  ignited,  the  
ignition  temperature  of  natural  gas  is  about  1,200°  F.    

In  a  conventional  gas  furnace  with  a  natural  draft,  air  is  mixed  with  the  gas  initially  
for  combustion.    This  air  is  called  the  primary  air.    Primary  air  is  controlled  by  the  
air  shutters  at  the  front  of  the  burner  assembly.    

The  remainder  of  the  air  mixture  comes  from  the  air  that  actually  surrounds  the  
flames  inside  the  combustion  chamber.    This  air  is  called  the  secondary  air.    The  
secondary  air  (the  air  around  the  flames)  and  the  primary  air  (the  air  drawn  into  the  
burners)  combine  to  make  up  the  total  combustion  air.    
Gas  Meter  
A  gas  meter  is  a  device  that  measures  the  volume  of  gas  entering  a  building.    Gas  
meters  are  used  at  residential  and  light  commercial  buildings.    They  are  owned  by  
the  gas  company.    Several  different  designs  and  types  of  gas  meters  are  in  use  
today.    Meters  may  be  found  inside  or  outside  the  building.    Most  modern  codes  
require  the  meter  to  be  outside  because  it  is  safer  and  more  convenient  for  gas  
company  personnel  to  monitor.    

You  are  not  required  to  inspect  the  gas  meter.    Many  inspectors  include  a  check  of  
the  gas  meter  in  their  inspection.    You  may  decide  to  include  in  your  report  the  
description  of  the  gas  meter’s  location,  and  confirmation  of  the  main  valve  being  


• inadequate  access;  
• possible  gas  leak;  


  Page 23 of 141    
• tilting;  and  
• poor  installation.  

At  a  gas  meter,  check  for  the  main  valve.    The  main  gas  valve  at  the  meter  turns  off  
the  gas  supply  to  the  meter.    There  should  be  a  way  to  lock  the  valve  in  either  the  
"on"  or  "off"  position.    The  meter  and  valve  must  be  readily  accessible.    The  meter  
may  have  a  pressure  regulator  that  adjusts  the  gas  pressure  that  enters  the  



The  gas  service  line  from  the  street  to  the  gas  meter  may  be  made  of  plastic.    The  
plastic  gas  service  line  should  be  around  15  inches  below  ground  level,  but  this  may  
vary,  depending  on  your  jurisdiction.    You  should  not  see  the  plastic  gas  service  line  
above  the  ground's  surface.    You  may  see  a  pipe  (a  metal  riser)  coming  out  of  the  
ground  and  connecting  to  the  gas  meter.    You  may  see  a  small  wire  wrapped  around  
the  service  line  that  comes  out  of  the  ground  next  to  the  meter.    This  is  called  the  
tracer  wire.    

Rust  on  the  gas  meter  is  usually  only  a  surface  condition  and  not  a  major  defect.    

Look  for  gas  meters  that  are  located  in  areas  where  they  could  be  damaged  by  
impact.    Gas  meters  should  not  be  installed  in  driveways,  carports  or  parking  areas  
without  steel  posts  or  some  other  type  of  barrier  installed  to  protect  them  against  

If  the  gas  is  in  the  "off"  position,  it  is  likely  that  a  plumber  or  the  gas  company  has  
turned  the  gas  off.    Gas  could  be  shut  off  temporarily  if  there  is  an  appliance  inside  

  Page 24 of 141    
the  building  that  has  been  flagged  or  red-­‐tagged  as  being  unsafe  to  operate.    If  the  
gas  is  turned  off,  do  not  turn  it  on.    You  are  not  required  to  turn  on  and  operate  gas  

Gas  meters  covered  with  ice,  frost  or  snow  may  simply  be  located  under  a  roof  edge  
that  drops  snow  and  ice  on  top  of  them.    Gas  meters  should  not  be  covered  with  ice  
or  snow.    They  should  not  be  located  directly  below  the  drip  line  of  a  roof’s  edge.  

Gas  meters  should  be  readily  accessible.    You  may  find  gas  meters  hidden  under  
dense  vegetation,  or  located  in  undesirable  areas,  including  under  decks  or  
porches.    Some  building  standards  require  that  gas  meters  be  installed  with  
adequate  clearance  from  combustible  materials,  from  sources  of  ignition,  and  from  
the  drip  line  of  a  roof  edge.    Most  codes  prevent  meters  from  being  installed  in  
unvented  locations  and  crawlspaces.    
Gas  Piping  
The  gas  piping  installed  before  the  
meter  (and  the  meter  itself)  is  usually  
the  responsibility  of  the  gas  
company.    The  gas  piping  installed  
after  the  meter  is  usually  the  
responsibility  of  the  homeowner.    

The  most  common  gas  piping  material  

is  black  iron.    Copper,  brass  and  
stainless  steel  tubing  are  also  used.    If  
the  gas  piping  is  copper,  then  it  should  
be  of  Type  K,  L  or  GP.    Underground  
piping  is  usually  Type  K.      

You  may  see  corrugated  stainless  steel  tubing  (CSST).    CSST  was  approved  for  
residential  use  in  1988  by  the  National  Fuel  Gas  Code.    It  is  a  method  of  supplying  
natural  gas  to  fireplaces,  furnaces,  cooktops,  clothes  dryers,  and  any  other  gas  
appliance.    However,  some  jurisdictions  do  not  permit  its  use.  


  Page 25 of 141    
Most  jurisdictions  do  not  permit  flexible  gas  pipes  to  go  through  walls,  floors  or  
ceilings.    They  cannot  be  concealed.    They  are  limited  in  length.    And  the  shut-­‐off  
valve  cannot  be  located  in  a  different  room  than  the  appliance  unless  it  is  clearly  
labeled.  Gas  pipes  should  not  pass  through  ducts.  


Teflon®  tape  is  not  recommended  for  use  at  pipe  connections.    Pipe  dope  is  

Most  jurisdictions  do  not  allow  the  use  of  gas  piping  as  a  way  to  ground  the  
electrical  service.    We  do  not  want  to  rely  on  the  gas  piping  as  the  primary  means  of  

  Page 26 of 141    
grounding  the  electrical  service.    Bonding  the  gas  pipes  to  the  electrical  grounding  
system  is  a  requirement  in  most  jurisdictions.    This  bonding  is  usually  done  by  
connecting  the  gas  piping  to  the  water  supply  piping  that  is  near  the  water  
heater.    This  is  assuming  that  the  water  pipes  are  grounded.    



Gas  piping  should  be  adequately  supported.    Check  the  floor  for  broken  or  loose  
support  devices  or  brackets.    Piping  should  not  support  other  piping.    


  Page 27 of 141    
Gas  Leak  
If  there  is  a  gas  leak,  you  may  smell  it.    The  leak  could  be  coming  from  a  valve  or  a  
loose  connection.    As  part  of  your  inspection  protocol,  you  could  incorporate  using  a  
combustible  gas  analyzer  to  sniff  for  gas  leaks.    Using  this  type  of  instrument  is  not  
required  by  the  Standards  of  Practice.    If  you  smell  a  gas  leak,  contact  the  utility  
company  immediately.    
Galvanized  Steel  
Black  steel  is  commonly  used  inside  a  residential  property  to  carry  the  natural  
gas.    Galvanized  steel  is  not  used  because  the  zinc  coating  may  flake  and  clog  the  line  
or  the  appliance.    Try  not  to  be  confused  by  the  appearance  of  the  pipes.    A  gas  pipe  
may  appear  to  be  a  water  supply  pipe,  and  vice  versa.    If  copper  is  permitted,  both  
the  water  and  the  gas  piping  may  be  copper.    Special  identification  of  the  lines  in  
your  jurisdiction  may  be  required  or  recommended.    
Drip  Leg  
The  drip  leg  (sediment  trap  
or  dirt  leg)  should  be  
installed  at  the  heating  
system.    Look  for  the  drip  leg  
at  the  bottom  of  the  vertical  
pipe  that  leads  to  the  gas  
heating  system.    The  debris  
that  floats  in  the  gas  will  drop  
into  the  drip  or  dirt  leg  
before  entering  the  
vulnerable  components  of  the  
heating  system,  such  as  the  
gas  valve.  


  Page 28 of 141    
Gas  Shut-­‐Off  Valve  
A  gas  shut-­‐off  valve  should  be  installed  adjacent  to  the  heating  system.  With  some  
exceptions,  every  gas  appliance  should  have  a  readily  accessible  gas  shut-­‐off  valve  
installed  adjacent  to  the  appliance.  The  inability  to  shut  off  the  gas  to  a  heating  
system  would  be  dangerous.    A  shut-­‐off  valve  is  needed  in  order  to  safely  perform  
maintenance  and  servicing  of  the  system.    


Section  8:  Combustion  Fundamentals  

Combustion  Fundamentals  
Combustion  involves  the  burning  of  a  fuel  that  produces  heat  energy.    Combustion  
requires  an  adequate  supply  of  air  called  combustion  air.    For  successful  
combustion,  there  must  be  a  source  of  fuel,  oxygen,  and  ignition.  

Burning  a  natural  gas  can  be  explained  by  the  general  equation:  

CH4  +  2O2  =  CO2  +  2H2O  +  heat  

Natural  gas  is  about  85  to  90%  methane  (CH4).  Burning  natural  gas  (CH4)  with  
oxygen  yields  carbon  dioxide  (CO2)  and  water  vapor  (2H2O)  and  heat.    This  is  
referred  to  as  complete  combustion.  

  Page 29 of 141    
In  reality,  air  is  the  source  of  oxygen  (O2),  and  in  the  air,  oxygen  is  mixed  with  some  
nitrogen.    The  resultant  flue  gas  from  the  combustion  will  contain  some  nitrogen.    

Combustion  is  never  complete  (or  perfect).    In  combustion  exhaust  gases,  both  
unburned  carbon  (as  soot)  and  carbon  compounds  (CO  and  others)  will  be  
present.    Also,  because  air  is  the  oxidant,  some  nitrogen  will  be  oxidized  into  various  
nitrogen  oxides  (NOX).  

Combustion  Air  


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Roughly  15  cubic  feet  of  air  are  needed  to  burn  1  cubic  foot  of  natural  gas.    Gas  
furnaces  also  need  draft  air  (or  dilution  air)  to  maintain  a  draft  of  the  combustion  
gases.    Another  15  cubic  feet  of  air  is  needed  for  every  cubic  foot  of  natural  gas.    This  
air  helps  with  a  chimney  draft.    Therefore,  a  conventional  low-­‐efficiency,  standing-­‐
pilot  gas  furnace  requires  about  30  cubic  feet  of  air  (15  dilution  plus  15  combustion)  
for  every  cubic  foot  of  gas  burned.    

If  combustion  air  is  inadequately  supplied  to  a  gas  furnace,  carbon  monoxide  will  
likely  be  produced.  Carbon  monoxide  can  be  lethal.    
Draft  Types  
There  are  three  types  of  burners  relative  to  the  draft.    They  are:  

• natural-­‐draft  burners;  
• induced-­‐draft  burners;  and  
• forced-­‐draft  burners.  

Natural  draft  refers  to  the  burners  of  a  conventional  low-­‐efficiency  gas  furnace.    This  
type  of  burner  is  also  called  an  atmospheric  burner.    With  natural  draft,  we  need  to  
keep  the  chimney  hot  enough  to  get  those  combustion  gases  out  of  the  
chimney.    Natural  draft  burners  have  no  draft  fan.  



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A  forced  draft  describes  a  furnace  that  has  a  fan  that  blows  air  into  the  combustion  
chamber  through  the  heat  exchanger  and  out  through  the  venting  system.    All  oil  
burners  and  some  gas  furnaces  use  forced  draft.    Forced  draft  has  the  fan  before  the  



An  induced  draft  uses  a  blower  fan  to  pull  air  into  the  burner  through  the  
combustion  chamber  and  exchanger.    The  fan  is  located  on  the  exhaust-­‐side  of  the  
exchanger.    It  also  blows  the  flue  gases  out  through  the  vent  connector  pipe.    When  
the  induced  fan  is  operating,  there  is  a  negative  pressure  inside  the  heat  
exchanger.    Induced-­‐draft  fans  are  also  called  exhaust  blowers  or  power  
vents.    Induced  draft  has  a  fan  after  the  exchanger  and  before  the  vent  
pipe.    Induced-­‐draft  fans  are  common  on  mid-­‐efficiency  and  high-­‐efficiency  


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The  lack  of  dilution  air  (the  air  used  for  draft)  may  cause  a  condition  of  backdraft  at  
the  furnace.    Backdraft  occurs  when  the  combustion  gases  are  not  drafting  or  rising  
up  through  the  chimney  but  are,  instead,  coming  backward  into  the  living  area  of  the  
building.    This  is  a  hazardous  situation,  since  carbon  monoxide  could  be  entering  the  

Backdraft  can  be  caused  by  various  conditions,  including:  

• inadequate  dilution  air;  

• flue  restriction  or  blockage;  
• chimney  downdraft;  
• exhaust  fans  causing  draft  and  pressure  problems  within  the  building;  and  
• improper  chimney  or  flue  connector  size.    

Confined  Space  and  Combustion  Air  

If  the  volume  of  space  where  the  appliance  is  located  is  less  than  50  cubic  feet  of  
space  per  1,000  BTU  per  hour  of  aggregate  input  of  the  appliance,  then  it  is  a  
confined  space.    

50  cubic  feet  =  2.5  feet  x  2.5  feet  x  8  feet  

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In  unconfined  spaces  in  buildings,  infiltration  may  be  adequate  to  provide  air  for  
combustion,  ventilation  and  dilution  of  flue  gases.    However,  in  buildings  of  tight  
construction  -­‐-­‐  for  example,  doors  and  windows  that  have  weatherstripping,  walls  
that  are  heavily  insulated,  openings  that  are  caulked,  floors  and  walls  with  vapor  
barriers,  etc.  -­‐-­‐  additional  air  may  need  to  be  provided.  
Two  permanent  openings  to  adjacent  spaces  could  be  provided  so  that  the  
combined  volume  of  all  spaces  meets  the  requirements.    If  the  building  is  sealed  so  
tightly  that  infiltration  air  is  not  adequate  for  combustion,  combustion  air  should  
then  be  obtained  from  outdoors.  
All  Air  from  Inside  the  Dwelling  
If  all  combustion  air  is  taken  from  the  inside  of  the  dwelling,  then  two  permanent  
openings  should  be  installed.    One  opening  should  be  within  12  inches  of  the  top  and  
one  within  12  inches  of  the  bottom  of  the  space.    Each  opening  shall  have  a  free  area  
equal  to  a  minimum  of  1  square  inch  per  1,000  BTU-­‐per-­‐hour  input  rating  of  all  
appliances  installed  within  the  space,  but  not  less  than  100  square  inches.  
All  Air  from  Outdoors  
If  all  combustion  air  is  taken  from  the  outdoor  air,  then  one  opening  should  be  
within  12  inches  of  the  top  and  one  within  12  inches  of  the  bottom  of  the  space.    The  
openings  are  permitted  to  connect  to  spaces  directly  communicating  with  the  
outdoor  air,  such  as  a  ventilated  crawlspace  or  ventilated  attic  space.    Each  opening  
should  have  a  free  area  of  at  least  1  square  inch  per  4,000  BTU  per  hour  of  total  
input  rating  of  all  appliances  in  the  space  when  using  vertical  ducts,  or  2,000  BTU  
per  hour  if  using  horizontal  ducts.  
In  calculating  the  free  area  of  a  combustion  air  opening  fitted  with  louvers,  the  
inspector  should  note  that  metal  louvers  obstruct  about  25%  of  the  opening,  and  
wooden  louvers  obstruct  75%  of  it.  

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Section  9:  Furnace  Fundamentals  
Furnace  Fundamentals  
A  general  home  inspection  includes  inspecting,  identifying  and  describing  the  
heating  system.        

In  order  to  perform  an  inspection  according  to  the  InterNACHI  Standards  of  
Practice,  an  inspector  must  apply  the  knowledge  of  what  s/he  understands  about  
the  different  types  of  residential  heating  systems.    In  order  to  fully  inspect  and  
identify  a  particular  heating  system,  describe  its  heating  method,  and  identify  any  
material  defects  observed,  an  inspector  should  be  able  to  explain  and  discuss  with  
their  client:  

• the  heating  system;  

• its  heating  method;  
• its  type  or  identification;  
• how  the  heating  system  operates;  
• how  to  maintain  it;  and  
• the  common  problems  that  may  be  found.    

The  inspector  must  be  able  to  thoroughly  examine  a  heating  system,  understand  
how  a  particular  heating  system  operates,  and  analyze  and  draw  conclusions  as  to  
its  apparent  condition.    An  inspector  should  also  be  able  to  justify  his/her  
observations,  opinions  and  recommendations  that  s/he  has  written  in  
the  inspection  report.  
Let's  focus  on  the  fundamentals  of  a  particular  heating  system  called  a  
furnace.  There  are  many  ways  to  inspect,  identify  and  describe  the  different  types  of  
furnaces  that  may  be  found  at  a  property  using  non-­‐invasive,  visual-­‐only  inspection  
techniques.    It  is  up  to  the  inspector’s  judgment  as  to  how  detailed  the  inspection  
and  report  will  be.    For  example,  the  inspector  is  not  required  to  determine  the  
capacity  or  BTU  of  the  inspected  heating  system,  but  many  inspectors  record  that  
detailed  information  in  their  reports.  

The  American  Society  of  Heating,  Refrigerating  and  Air-­‐Conditioning  Engineers  

(ASHRAE)  defines  a  furnace  as  a  “complete  heating  unit  for  transferring  heat  from  
fuel  being  burned  to  the  air  supplied  to  a  heating  system.”    Another  definition  of  a  
furnace  is  “a  self-­‐enclosed,  fuel-­‐burning  unit  for  heating  air  by  transfer  of  
combustion  through  metal  directly  to  the  air.”    Taking  these  two  definitions  into  
consideration,  there  are  two  basic  characteristics  of  a  furnace:  

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• there  is  a  fuel  used  to  produce  combustion;  and  
• heat  is  transferred  to  the  interior  air.      

Note  that  air  –-­‐  not  water  or  steam  -­‐–  is  used  as  the  medium  to  convey  the  heat.    This  
characteristic  distinguishes  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  from  other  types  of  heating  

Let’s  look  at  identifying  and  describing  some  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  known  
as  furnaces.  

Most  modern  furnaces  are  commonly  referred  to  as  central  heating  systems.  The  
furnace  is  typically  centralized  within  the  structure.    The  furnace  is  used  as  the  
main,  central  warm-­‐air  heating  system.    The  heat  of  the  furnace  is  forced  (or  rises)  
through  a  system  of  ducts  or  pipes  to  other  areas  and  rooms  in  the  structure.    The  
furnace  does  not  necessarily  need  to  be  centrally  located  within  the  structure  if  the  
furnace  is  a  forced  warm-­‐air  system.    
Furnaces  that  have  no  distribution  ducts  or  pipes  are  used  in  some  heating  
applications.    They  are  limited  in  the  size  of  the  area  that  they  can  heat.    They  are  
installed  within  the  room  or  area  to  be  heated  and  have  no  way  to  distribute  the  
heat  to  other  places.        
Identification  and  Description  of  Furnaces  
There  are  several  ways  to  identify  and  describe  a  furnace  using  non-­‐invasive,  visual-­‐
only  inspection  techniques,  as  required  by  the  InterNACHI  Standards  of  Practice.    
Furnaces  can  be  identified  and  described  by:  
• fuel  type;  
• distribution;  
• air  flow;  
• gravity  or  forced;  
• efficiency;  and    
• ignition.    

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 Fuel  Type  

One  way  to  identify  and  describe  a  furnace  is  based  on  the  type  of  fuel  used  to  
produce  heat.    

Based  on  fuel  type,  one  can  classify  a  furnace  as:  

• gas-­‐fired;  
• oil-­‐fired;  
• coal-­‐burning;  
• wood-­‐burning;  
• multi-­‐fuel;  or  
• electric.  

Fossil  fuels  are  used  to  produce  combustion  in  the  first  five  types.    The  last  one  uses  
electricity.    Whether  or  not  electricity  can  be  considered  a  fuel  is  not  important  here,  
since  an  electric  furnace  functions  in  the  same  manner  as  the  fossil-­‐burning  
furnaces.    The  electric  furnace  heats  air  and  distributes  it.    According  to  the  
InterNACHI  Standards,  an  inspector  is  required  to  describe  the  energy  source  in  the  
The  inspector  is  also  required  to  describe  the  heating  method.    One  way  to  do  that  is  
to  identify  the  method  for  how  the  air  is  distributed  throughout  the  house.  Furnaces  
can  be  identified  and  described  or  classified  by  the  way  the  air  is  distributed.    There  
are  two  broad  categories:  

• gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces;  and  

• forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces.    

Gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces  rely  primarily  on  gravity  for  circulating  the  heated  
air.    Warm  air  is  lighter  than  cool  air  and  will  rise  and  move  through  ducts  and  
pipes.    After  releasing  its  heat,  the  air  becomes  cooler  and  heavier.    The  air  drops  
down  the  structure  through  return  registers  to  the  furnace  where  it  is  heated  again,  
and  the  cycle  continues.    The  very  earliest  types  of  furnaces  were  gravity-­‐type  
furnaces.    Many  of  these  had  a  blower  fan  installed  to  move  the  heated  air.    They  
have  been  replaced  by  modern,  forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces.  
Air  Flow  
Forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces  can  be  identified  and  described  by  how  the  air  flows  
through  the  heating  unit  in  relation  to  the  warm-­‐air  outlet  and  the  return-­‐air  inlet  

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locations  on  the  furnace.    There  are  three  types  of  forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces  related  
to  air  flow:  

• upflow  (highboy  or  lowboy);  

• downflow;  and  
• horizontal.    

Furnace  manufacturers  commonly  use  

the  terms  "upflow,"  "downflow"  and  
"horizontal"  in  their  literature  that  
describes  their  products,  including  
their  marketing  materials,  and  in  their  
installation  and  operation  manuals.  

Upflow  Highboy  
On  a  typical  upflow  highboy  furnace,  
the  warm-­‐air  outlet  is  located  at  the  
top  of  the  furnace,  so  warm  air  discharges  out  of  the  top.    The  return-­‐air  inlet  is  
located  at  the  bottom  or  sides  of  the  furnace.    A  cooling  unit  is  usually  added  to  the  
top  of  an  upflow  furnace.    A  typical  upflow  highboy  furnace  stands  no  higher  than  6  
feet  and  can  occupy  a  floor  space  of  6  square  feet  (2  x  3  feet).  
Upflow  Lowboy  
An  upflow  lowboy  furnace  is  designed  for  low  clearances.    Both  the  warm-­‐air  outlet  
and  return-­‐air  inlet  are  located  at  the  top  of  the  furnace.    The  lowboy  is  usually  
installed  in  a  basement  where  most  of  the  ductwork  is  located  above  the  heating  
unit.    This  compact  heating  unit  typically  stands  no  higher  than  4  feet.    It  is  usually  
longer  from  front  to  back  than  either  the  upflow  highboy  or  downflow  furnaces.  
A  downflow  furnace  is  also  referred  to  as  a  counterflow  furnace  or  a  down-­‐draft  
furnace.  Warm  air  discharges  out  of  the  bottom  of  a  downflow  furnace,  and  the  

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return-­‐air  inlet  is  located  at  the  
top.    The  downflow  furnace  is  
installed  when  most  of  the  duct  
or  pipe  distribution  system  
is  located  below  the  furnace.  The  
ducts  may  be  embedded  in  a  
concrete  floor  slab  or  suspended  
in  a  crawlspace  below  the  
heating  unit.    The  downflow  
furnace  is  similar  in  dimensions  
to  the  upflow,  but  the  warm-­‐air  
outlet  is  located  at  the  bottom  
instead  of  the  top.    

A  horizontal  furnace  is  designed  
primarily  for  installations  with  
low,  restricted  space,  such  as  a  
crawlspace  or  attic.    A  typical  
horizontal  furnace  is  about  2  feet  wide  by  2  feet  tall  and  5  feet  long.  



Gravity  Warm-­‐Air  Furnace  

A  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  uses  the  facts  that  warm  air  is  lighter  than  cool  air,  and  
warm  air  rises.    In  a  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace,  warm  air  may  rise  through  ducts  or  

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pipes.    After  releasing  its  heat,  the  air  becomes  cooler  and  heavier.    The  air  drops  
down  the  structure  through  return  registers  to  the  furnace,  where  it  is  heated  
again.    The  air  is  circulated  through  the  house  in  this  manner.  

The  very  earliest  types  of  furnaces  were  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces.    They  were  
popular  from  the  first  half  of  the  19th  century  to  the  early  1970s.    Some  had  a  
blower  fan  installed  to  move  the  heated  air.    But  the  primary  way  the  air  moved  
through  the  house  relied  on  how  gravity  affected  the  different  weights  of  warm  and  
cool  air.    Gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces  were  sometimes  described  as  "octopus"  
furnaces  because  of  their  appearance,  with  all  of  the  pipes  coming  out  of  the  
centrally  located  heating  unit.    Most  of  these  gravity  furnaces  are  obsolete.    If  an  
inspector  finds  one  still  in  use,  it  is  likely  at  the  end  of  its  service  life.  

A  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  can  be  described  in  one  of  the  following  three  ways:  

• a  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  without  a  fan;  

• a  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  with  an  integral  fan;  or  
• a  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  with  a  booster  fan.  

A  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace  without  a  fan  relies  entirely  on  gravity  and  the  different  
weights  of  air  to  circulate  the  air  through  the  house.    The  air-­‐flow  rate  is  slow.    The  
air  circulation  and  distribution  of  heated  air  is  not  efficient.    It  is  all  but  impossible  
to  effectively  control  the  heat  supplied  to  individual  rooms  of  the  house.    An  integral  
fan  may  be  installed  in  the  distribution  ducts  or  pipes  to  reduce  the  internal  
resistance  to  air  flow  and  increase  air  movement.    

A  booster  fan  is  installed  to  do  the  same  thing,  but  it  does  not  interfere  with  air  
circulation  when  it  is  not  in  use.    A  booster  fan  may  be  a  belt-­‐driven  type  that  
rests  on  the  floor  and  is  attached  to  the  outside  of  the  heating  unit.  

Floor  and  space  heaters  operate  using  the  same  principles  of  gravity  and  air  
weights,  as  do  the  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces.    However,  they  differ  in  that  a  floor  or  
space  heater  is  designed  to  provide  heated  air  to  a  particular  room  or  space  and  
does  not  distribute  air  throughout  the  house.  

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Warm  Air  Rises  
When  a  certain  amount  of  air  is  heated  up,  it  expands  and  takes  up  more  space.    In  
other  words,  hot  air  is  less  dense  than  cold  air.    Any  substance  that  is  less  dense  than  
the  fluid  (gas  or  liquid)  of  its  surroundings  will  float.    Hot  air  floats  on  cold  air  
because  it  is  less  dense,  just  as  a  piece  of  wood  floats  because  it  is  less  dense  than  
water.    Warm  air  is  often  described  as  weighing  less  than  cool  air.  
Pipeless  Floor  and  Wall  Furnaces  
A  pipeless  floor  furnace  is  a  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  system  that  is  installed  
directly  beneath  a  floor.    One  large  grille  is  installed  for  the  warm  air  to  rise  up  
through.    A  cool-­‐air  return  is  installed  for  air  circulation.    This  type  of  furnace  is  
sometimes  considered  a  permanently  installed  room  heater.    A  wall  furnace  is  
installed  in  the  wall  and  is  also  considered  a  permanently  installed  room  
heater.    Some  of  these  units  have  blower  fans,  but  most  operate  on  the  principle  of  
gravity  for  air  circulation.    
A  common  wall  furnace  is  a  type  that  is  installed  on  the  wall,  in  a  closet,  or  in  a  wall  
recess.    Wall  furnaces  are  usually  gas-­‐  or  oil-­‐fired  vertical  units.  There  are  upflow  
and  downflow  wall  furnaces  with  grilles  at  the  bottom  and  top  of  the  vertical  unit.  
Furnace  Maintenance  
Many  property  inspectors  look  for  and  report  on  indications  of  delayed  
maintenance.    Furnace  maintenance  is  a  very  important  part  of  the  efficient  
operation  of  a  warm-­‐air  heating  system.    Furnace  maintenance  should  never  be  
neglected.  The  furnace  manufacturer  provides  recommendations  for  proper  
maintenance  in  their  installation  and  operation  manuals.    With  proper  maintenance,  
the  life  of  the  furnace  will  be  extended,  its  efficiency  will  improve,  and  the  cost  to  
operate  it  will  be  reduced.  Maintaining  a  furnace  includes  cleaning  and/or  
replacing  the  air  filter  on  a  regular  basis.  Furnaces  should  be  periodically  serviced  
by  a  technician.    A  maintenance  schedule  should  be  used  and  posted  near  the  
furnace.  The  maintenance  schedule  should  have  dates,  maintenance  comments,  
descriptions  of  repairs  performed,  and  contact  information  for  the  local  technician  
who  works  on  the  furnace.  

Quiz  4  
Burning  natural  gas  with  oxygen  yields  carbon  dioxide,  water  vapor,  and  ________.  

• heat  
• refrigerant  

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• cooling  

T/F:  A  natural  draft  unit  has  a  draft  fan.  

• False  
• True  

There  are  two  broad  categories  to  describe  furnace  heating  systems:  gravity  warm-­‐
air  furnaces;  and  ______  warm-­‐air  furnaces.  

• forced  
• natural  
• convective  

A(n)  _______  furnace  is  also  referred  to  as  a  counter-­‐flow  furnace  or  a  down-­‐draft  

• downflow  
• upflow  
• horizontal  

Section  10:  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  

Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  
Warm-­‐air  heating  systems  use  air  as  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium  that  carries  heat  
from  the  heating  system  to  the  rooms  and  spaces  of  the  dwelling.    Air  being  the  heat-­‐
conveying  medium  is  the  distinguishing  characteristic  noted  by  inspectors  to  
identify  and  describe  the  particular  heating  system.    The  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  
usually  (but  not  always)  centrally  located  in  the  structure.    

The  following  fuels  can  be  used  in  a  warm-­‐air  heating  system:  

• fuel  oil  (No.  2);  

• natural  gas;  
• propane;  
• coal;  
• electricity;  
• wood;  
• kerosene;  and  
• pellets.  


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The  simple  description  of  a  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  as  follows:    

1. Cool  air  enters  the  furnace.    

2. The  furnace  heats  the  air.      
3. The  warm  air  begins  to  rise.    
4. The  air  is  distributed  either  by  simply  rising  up  through  the  house  (as  in  a  
gravity  warm-­‐air  furnace),  or  by  a  fan  through  ducts  or  pipes  (as  in  a  forced  
warm-­‐air  furnace).    
5. The  warm  air  gives  off  its  heat,  gets  cooler  and  heavier,  and  returns  to  the  
furnace  where  it  is  re-­‐heated  and  re-­‐circulated.  

A  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  one  in  which  air  is  heated  by  a  furnace  and  then  
distributed  to  the  rest  of  the  structure  by  gravity  or  by  the  use  of  a  centrifugal  fan.    If  
gravity  is  employed,  then  the  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  referred  to  as  a  gravity  
warm-­‐air  heating  system.    If  the  movement  of  air  primarily  relies  on  a  fan  (or  
some  mechanical  means  for  circulation),  then  the  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  
referred  to  as  a  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  system.    


• If  gravity  is  used,  it's  a  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  system.  

• If  a  fan  is  used,  it's  a  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  system.  

It  is  possible  to  confuse  one  type  with  the  other.    Some  gravity  warm-­‐air  systems  use  
fans  to  assist  with  air  movement  and  circulation,  and  one  system  may  be  mistaken  
for  the  other  when  attempting  to  describe  it.    One  of  the  easiest  ways  for  inspectors  
to  identify  and  describe  a  particular  heating  system  is  based  on  how  the  air  is  
circulated  -­‐-­‐  by  gravity  or  by  a  fan.  

Gravity  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  
A  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  a  furnace  with  a  means  of  supplying  warm  air  
and  returning  cool  air  that  relies  primarily  on  gravity  to  move  the  air.    The  system  
consists  of  a  furnace  and  some  ducts  or  pipes.    Warm  air  rises,  and  cool  air  falls.    The  
weight  per  unit-­‐volume  of  air  decreases  as  its  temperature  increases.    And,    


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conversely,  the  weight  per  unit-­‐volume  of  air  increases  as  its  temperature  

The  furnace  heats  the  air,  and  the  air  gets  lighter  and  rises  out  of  the  heating  
system.    Cool  air  enters  the  heating  system  and  pushes  or  displaces  the  warm,  rising  
air.    The  warm  air  rises  up  through  warm-­‐air  ducts  or  pipes  (often  called  stacks)  
that  are  inside  the  walls.    The  warm  air  rises  up  through  the  building.    The  warm  air  
enters  a  room  through  the  supply  registers  on  the  wall  or  floor.    The  cool  air  falls  out  
of  the  room  and  may  return  through  a  return  grille,  and  travels  back  through  return  
ducts  to  the  heating  system.    Some  houses  with  old  gravity  heating  systems  may  not  
have  a  lot  of  ducts  and  pipes  but  may  have  large  openings  covered  with  iron  grates  
or  grilles  in  the  floors  that  allow  the  cool  air  to  fall  down  through  the  building.    The  
cool  air  is  allowed  to  simply  fall  back  to  the  furnace  –-­‐  hence,  the  name  "gravity  
warm-­‐air  heating  system."    

The  efficiency  of  the  air  circulation  in  a  house  with  a  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  
system  depends  on  the  temperature  difference  between  the  warm  air  rising  and  the  
cool  air  falling.    The  greater  the  difference,  the  greater  the  speed  that  the  air  will  
circulate.    Also,  air  circulation  in  a  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  system  is  greatly  
affected  by  air  filtering.    An  air  filter  can  resist  and  almost  block  the  air  flow  in  a  
gravity  system.    You  may  find  that  an  integral  fan  has  been  installed  to  overcome  
resistance  to  air  flow.    
Forced  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  
A  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  system  consists  of  a  furnace,  a  blower  fan,  controls,  a  
duct  distribution  system,  and  supply  and  return  registers.    The  heating  system  
warms  the  air,  and  the  air  is  forced  through  ducts  or  pipes  into  rooms  throughout  
the  building.    The  cool  air  returns  through  the  ducts  back  to  the  furnace  where  it  is  
re-­‐heated.    And  the  cycle  begins  again.    

Some  large  homes  have  balancing  problems.    Certain  rooms  may  feel  colder  than  the  
rest  of  the  house.    This  problem  can  be  solved  in  a  few  ways.    One  is  by  dividing  the  
heating  system  into  two  separate  zones,  with  each  controlled  by  its  own  
thermostat.    You  may  find  a  motorized  damper  installed  in  the  duct  system  that  is  
controlled  by  a  thermostat.    Zoning  equipment  can  be  expensive.    Usually,  a  system  
can  be  balanced  manually  by  adjusting  the  supply  dampers  installed  inside  the  main  
supply  ducts,  and  by  using  the  dampers  at  the  warm-­‐air  outlets  (lever-­‐controlled  
dampers,  floor  diffusers,  or  registers).      
Warm-­‐Air  Furnace  
Most  modern  furnaces  are  commonly  referred  to  as  central  heating  systems.  The  
furnace  is  often  centralized  within  the  structure.    The  furnace  is  used  as  the  main,  
central  warm-­‐air  heating  system.    The  heat  of  the  furnace  is  forced  or  rises  through  
a  system  of  ducts  or  pipes  to  other  areas  and  rooms  in  the  structure.    The  furnace  

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does  not  necessarily  need  to  be  centrally  located  within  the  structure  if  the  furnace  
is  a  forced  warm-­‐air  system.    
There  are  some  furnaces  that  have  no  distribution  ducts  or  pipes.    They  are  limited  
in  the  size  of  the  area  that  they  can  heat.    They  are  installed  within  the  room  or  area  
to  be  heated  and  have  no  way  to  distribute  the  heat  to  other  places.      
Identification  and  Description  of  Furnaces  
There  are  several  ways  to  identify  and  describe  a  furnace  using  non-­‐invasive,  visual-­‐
only  inspection  techniques,  as  required  by  the  InterNACHI  Standards  of  Practice.    

Furnaces  can  be  identified  and  described  by:  

• fuel  type;  
• distribution;  
• air  flow;  
• gravity  or  forced  air;  
• efficiency;  and    
• ignition.    

Fuel  Type  
One  way  to  identify  and  describe  a  furnace  is  based  on  the  type  of  fuel  used  to  
produce  heat.    Based  on  fuel  type,  one  can  classify  a  furnace  as:  

• gas-­‐fired;  
• oil-­‐fired;  
• coal-­‐burning;  
• wood-­‐burning;  
• multi-­‐fuel;  or  
• electric.    

Fossil  fuels  are  used  to  produce  combustion  in  the  first  five  types.    The  last  one  uses  
electricity.    Whether  or  not  electricity  can  be  considered  a  fuel  is  not  important  here,    

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since  an  electric  furnace  functions  in  the  same  manner  as  the  other  fossil-­‐burning  
furnaces.    The  electric  furnace  heats  air  and  distributes  it.    According  to  the  SOP,  an  
inspector  is  required  to  describe  the  energy  source  in  the  report.  


The  inspector  is  also  required  to  describe  the  heating  method.    One  way  to  do  that  is  
to  identify  the  method  of  how  the  air  is  distributed  throughout  the  house.    Furnaces  
can  be  identified  and  described  or  classified  by  the  way  the  air  is  distributed.    There  
are  two  broad  categories:  

• gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces;  and  

• forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces.      

To  review,  gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces  rely  primarily  on  gravity  for  circulating  the  
heated  air.    Warm  air  is  lighter  than  cool  air  and  will  rise  and  move  through  ducts  or  
pipes.    After  releasing  its  heat,  the  air  becomes  cooler  and  heavier.    The  air  drops  
down  the  structure  through  return  registers  and  back  to  the  furnace  where  it  is  
heated  again,  and  the  cycle  continues.    The  very  earliest  types  of  furnaces  were  
gravity-­‐type  furnaces.    Many  had  a  blower  fan  installed  to  move  the  heated  
air.    These  have  been  replaced  by  modern,  forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces.  

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Advantages  of  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  
By  modern  comfort  standards,  gravity  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  have  no  special  
advantage  and    many  disadvantages.    Gravity  systems  do  not  have  blower  fans,  so  
they  don't  have  good  air  circulation  for  adequate  air  conditioning  for  modern  
comfort  standards,  including  good  air  temperature  control,  humidity  control,  and  air  
Advantages  of  a  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  System  
• It  costs  less  to  install  than  a  hot-­‐water  or  steam-­‐heating  system.  
• Heat  is  delivered  to  the  rooms  relatively  quickly.  
• Heat  delivery  can  be  stopped  quickly.  
• Air  filtering  is  easy  to  install.  
• Humidity  can  be  easily  controlled.  
• Air  cooling  (or  air  conditioning)  can  be  easily  installed.  
• The  heating  system  does  not  have  to  be  centrally  located.  



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Disadvantages  of  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  

There  are  several  disadvantages  of  having  a  warm-­‐air  heating  system.    Gravity  
warm-­‐air  systems  have  to  be  centrally  located  at  the  lowest  level  of  the  
structure.    They  are  slow  to  respond  to  controls,  air  movement  is  slow,  and  air  
filtering  is  restricted.  

Forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  require  blower  fans.    They  sometimes  make  
noise.    The  air  movement  may  cause  indoor  air-­‐quality  issues  because  the  air  
agitates  dust  and  other  particles.    Cool-­‐air  return  inlets  and  warm-­‐air  supply  
registers  must  not  be  blocked,  which  sometimes    interferes  with  positioning  
of  furniture.    They  also  have  some  architectural  design  demands.    Warm  air  is  
supplied  in  bursts  of  convection  heat,  which  may  cause  the  air  temperature  in  
different  rooms  to  vary.  

Section  11:  Ducts  

Plenum  and  Perimeter  
Duct  Systems  
Forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  can  
be  identified  by  the  type  of  duct  system  
installed.    There  are  two  broad  

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• perimeter  duct  systems;  and  
• plenum  duct  systems.  

Perimeter  and  plenum  systems  (or  extended  plenum  systems)  are  the  two  duct  
systems  most  commonly  used  at  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems.    
Perimeter  Duct  System  
If  you  are  inspecting  a  perimeter  duct  system,  you  should  find  supply  registers  
located  around  the  exterior  walls  of  the  room  at  the  floor  area.    The  return  registers  
may  be  located  at  the  ceiling  of  the  inside  wall.    
Perimeter  Loop  and  Perimeter  Radial  
There  are  two  common  types  of  perimeter  duct  systems:  perimeter  loop  and  
perimeter  radial.    A  perimeter-­‐loop  duct  system  actually  has  a  loop  of  duct  or  pipe  
that  connects  all  of  the  exterior  registers  at  the  perimeter,  outside  the  wall’s  outer  
edge.    The  ducts  extend  out  from  the  centrally  located  heating  system  to  a  loop  duct  
at  the  perimeter  that  connects  all  the  supply  registers.    With  a  radial-­‐perimeter  duct  
system,  the  ducts  radiate  out  from  a  centralized  location  where  the  heating  system  
is  installed,  and  extends  outward  to  the  exterior  walls  where  the  supply  registers  
are  located.    There  is  no  loop  duct  at  a  radial  perimeter  system.    
Perimeter-­‐loop  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  are  typically  found  in  homes  built  on  a  
concrete  slab  rather  than  a  basement.    In  this  system,  round  ducts  are  embedded  in  
the  slab.  
Plenum  Duct  System  
If  you  are  inspecting  a  plenum-­‐duct  system,  then  you  should  find  a  large  rectangular  
duct  that  comes  directly  out  of  the  heating  system  and  runs  in  a  straight  line  down  
the  center  of  the  basement,  attic  or  ceiling.    From  the  large  rectangular  plenum  
extension,  you  will  find  ducts  branching  out  to  all  of  the  supply  registers  or  heat-­‐
emitting  units.    The  branching  ducts  are  usually  round,  located  between  floor  joists,  
and  usually  covered  by  a  ceiling.  
Plenum  duct  systems  are  often  called  extended  plenum  duct  systems  because  the    

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large  rectangular  duct  extends  directly  out  of  the  supply  outlet  (or  main  plenum)  of  
the  heating  system.    The  extended  plenum  duct  system  is  common  in  most  modern  
residential  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems.  

Duct  Materials  
Ducts  can  be  made  out  of  a  variety  of  materials,  including:  

• plain  steel;  
• galvanized  sheet  metal;  
• aluminum;  
• copper;  
• fiberglass;  
• paper  fiber;  and  
• vitrified  clay  tile.    

Plain  steel  and  galvanized  sheet-­‐metal  cuts  are  about  0.0163  to  0.1419  inches  thick.  
Aluminum  and  copper  ducts  are  typically  installed  outside  the  building.    Paper-­‐fiber  
and  clay  ducts  are  installed  in  concrete.      

Duct  Terms  
In  a  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  system,  the  warm  air  comes  out  of  the  furnace  in  an  
area  called  the  furnace  plenum  or  furnace  hood.    An  extended  plenum  duct  

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system  has  a  large  rectangular  duct  connected  to  this  plenum  and  extends  out  in  a  
straight  line.    The  duct  between  the  furnace  and  the  plenum  is  often  called  
the  starting  collar.    Ducts  that  carry  warm  air  to  a  room  are  called  supply  
ducts.    Round  or  square  supply  ducts  that  are  connected  to  and  branch  off  the  
extended  duct  are  called  side  takeoffs.  These  supply  branches  are  connected  
to  register  boots  or  elbows.    Changes  in  direction  of  the  ducts  are  made  
by  angle  ducts.    A  large  vertical  duct  or  warm-­‐air  riser  is  sometimes  called  
a  stack  duct.  A  warm-­‐air  supply  duct  that  runs  horizontally  from  the  furnace  
plenum  to  a  riser  is  called  a  leader.    Dampers  may  be  installed  in  ducts  to  control  
the  amount  of  air  moving  through  the  duct.    Dampers  can  be  manually  or  
automatically  controlled.    All  of  the  ducts  that  carry  cool  air  back  to  the  furnace  are  
called  returnducts.  
A  damper  is  a  device  used  to  alter  the  volume  of  air  passing  through  a  confined  
cross-­‐section  by  changing  the  size  of  the  cross-­‐sectional  area.    It  controls  the  air  flow  
inside  a  duct  or  pipe  by  acting  as  a  moveable  obstruction.    There  are  volume  
dampers,  splitter  dampers,  and  squeeze  dampers.    Dampers  can  be  manually  or  
automatically  controlled.  
Grilles,  Registers  and  Diffusers  
There  are  three  general  types  of  warm-­‐air  supply  outlet  devices:  

• grilles;  
• registers;  and  
• diffusers.  

Grilles  deflect  the  air  up,  down,  and  side  to  side,  depending  on  the  direction  that  the  
louvers  are  pointed.    Grilles  are  installed  high  or  low  on  walls.    Floor  grilles  are  
commonly  used  in  gravity  warm-­‐air  systems.    They  may  have  movable  louvers,  but  
this  is  rare.  

Registers  are  similar  to  grilles,  but  registers  have  dampers  to  control  the  air  
flow.    They  can  be  located  on  walls  or  floors.    


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Diffusers  are  typically  formed  in  concentric  cones  or  pyramids.    They  can  be  located  
on  walls  and  are  usually  found  on  ceilings.    Baseboard  diffusers  are  used  in  
perimeter  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems.  
Cool-­‐air  returns  should  be  located  as  far  away  as  possible  from  the  supply  
outlets.    Returns  are  typically  located  at  the  bottom  of  walls  near  the  center  of  the  
building.    Return  grilles  should  be  installed  away  from  the  furnace.    If  the  return  
grille  is  too  close  to  the  furnace,  problems  with  draft  can  be  created,  causing  
backdraft  or  flame  rollout  conditions.  

Quiz  5  
If  you  are  inspecting  a  _______  duct  system,  you  should  find  a  large  rectangular  duct  
that  comes  directly  out  of  the  heating  system  and  runs  in  a  straight  line  down  the  
center  of  the  basement,  attic  or  ceiling.  

• plenum  
• perimeter  
• loop  

T/F:  Round  or  square  supply  ducts  that  are  connected  to  and  branch  off  the  
extended  duct  are  called  side  takeoffs.  

• True  
• False  

T/F:  Grilles  are  typically  formed  in  concentric  cones  or  pyramids.  

• False  
• True  

Section  12:  Gas  Furnaces  

Gas  Furnaces  
There  is  a  variety  of  ways  to  describe  different  types  of  residential  gas  furnaces.    Gas  
furnaces  can  be  classified  by:  

• the  direction  of  the  air  flowing  through  the  heating  unit;  
• the  heating  efficiency  of  the  unit;  and  
• the  type  of  ignition  system  installed  on  the  unit.  

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Air  Flow  in  Gas  Furnaces  
One  way  to  identify  and  describe  a  gas  furnace  is  by  the  direction  of  the  air  flowing  
through  the  heating  unit,  or  the  location  of  the  warm-­‐air  outlet  and  the  return-­‐air  
inlet  on  the  furnace.    Gas  furnaces  can  be  described  as  upflow,  downflow  
(counterflow),  highboy,  lowboy,  and  horizontal  flow.    Air  can  flow  up  through  the  
furnace  (upflow),  down  through  the  furnace  (downflow),  or  across  the  furnace  
(horizontal).    The  arrangement  of  the  furnace  should  not  significantly  affect  its  
operation,  or  your  inspection.  
Gas  furnaces  can  be  classified  by  their  different  capacities.    A  furnace  capacity  can  be  
described  by  its  BTU  output.    The  appropriate  BTU  is  determined  by  the  heating  
requirements  of  the  structure,  which  is  the  amount  of  heat  the  unit  needs  to  
produce  in  order  to  replace  heat  loss  and  provide  the  occupants  with  a  satisfactory  
comfort  level.  
Furnaces  can  be  identified  and  described  by  heating  efficiency.    The  energy  
efficiency  of  a  natural  gas  furnace  is  measured  by  its  annual  fuel  utilization  
efficiency  (AFUE).    The  higher  the  AFUE  rating,  the  more  efficient  the  furnace.    The  
U.S.  government  has  established  a  minimum  rating  for  furnaces  of  78%.  Mid-­‐
efficiency  furnaces  have  AFUE  ratings  of  between  78  to  82%.    High-­‐efficiency  
furnaces  have  AFUE  ratings  of  88  to  97%.    Old  standing-­‐pilot  gas  furnaces  have  
AFUE  ratings  of  60  to  65%.    Gravity  warm-­‐air  furnaces  can  have  efficiencies  that  
are  lower  than  60%.  
BTU  and  Efficiency  
"BTU"  stands  for  British  thermal  unit.    The  BTU  is  a  unit  of  energy.    It  is  
approximately  the  amount  of  energy  needed  to  heat  1  pound  of  water  by  1  degree  
Fahrenheit.    One  cubic  foot  of  natural  gas  contains  about  1,000  BTU.    A  gas  furnace  
that  fires  at  a  rate  of  100,000  BTU  per  hour  will  burn  about  100  cubic  feet  of  gas  
every  hour.  

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There  should  be  a  data  plate  on  a  gas  furnace.    On  that  plate  may  be  indicated  the  
furnace's  input  and  output  capacities.    For  example,  the  data  plate  may  say,  “Input  
100,000  BTU  per  hour.”    And  it  may  also  say,  “Output  80,000  BTU  per  hour.”    While  
this  furnace  is  running,  about  20%  of  the  heat  generated  is  lost  through  the  exhaust  
gases.    The  ratio  of  the  output  to  the  input  BTU  is  80,000  ÷  100,000  =  80%  
efficiency.    This  is  the  "steady-­‐state  efficiency"  of  the  furnace.    
Steady-­‐state  efficiency  measures  how  efficiently  a  furnace  converts  fuel  to  heat,  
once  the  furnace  has  warmed  up  and  is  running  steadily.    However,  furnaces  cycle  
off  and  on  as  they  maintain  their  desired  temperature.    Furnaces  typically  don't  
operate  as  efficiently  when  they  start  up  and  cool  down.    As  a  result,  steady-­‐state  
efficiency  is  not  as  reliable  an  indicator  of  the  overall  efficiency  of  your  furnace.  
AFUE  and  Efficiency  
The  AFUE  is  the  most  widely  used  measure  of  a  furnace's  heating  efficiency.    It  
measures  the  amount  of  heat  delivered  to  the  house  compared  to  the  amount  of  fuel  
that  must  be  supplied  to  the  furnace.    Thus,  a  furnace  that  has  an  80%  AFUE  rating  
converts  80%  of  the  fuel  that  is  supplied  to  heat.    The  other  20%  is  lost  and  wasted.  
Note  that  the  AFUE  refers  only  to  the  unit's  fuel  efficiency  and  not  its  electricity  
usage.    In  1992,  the  U.S.  Department  of  Energy  (DOE)  determined  that  all  furnaces  
sold  in  the  U.S.  must  have  a  minimum  AFUE  of  78%.    Furnaces  installed  in  
mobile/manufactured  homes  are  required  to  have  a  minimum  AFUE  of  75%.  
The  DOE's  definition  of  AFUE  is  the  measure  of  seasonal  or  annual  efficiency  of  a  
furnace  or  boiler.    It  takes  into  account  the  cyclic  on/off  operation  and  associated  
energy  losses  of  the  heating  unit  as  it  responds  to  changes  in  the  load,  which,  in  
turn,  are  affected  by  changes  in  the  weather  and  occupant  controls.  
Ignition  Type  
A  gas  furnace  can  be  identified  and  described  by  the  type  of  ignition  system  it  
uses.    The  different  types  of  ignition  systems  are:  

• standing-­‐pilot;  
• intermittent-­‐pilot  or  direct-­‐spark;  and  
• hot-­‐surface  ignition.      

Older  gas  furnaces  have  a  standing-­‐pilot  light  that  is  always  burning.    Modern  
furnaces  with  higher  efficiency  ratings  are  slowly  replacing  these  older,  
conventional  gas  furnaces.  

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Standing-­‐pilot  gas  furnaces  represent  a  significant  number  of  residential  gas  
furnaces  that  are  still  in  use  today.    A  standing-­‐pilot  gas  furnace  is  equipped  with  a  
naturally  aspirating  gas  burner,  a  draft  hood,  a  solenoid-­‐operated  main  gas  valve,  a  
continuously  operating  pilot  light  (standing-­‐pilot),  a  thermocouple  safety  device,  a  
24-­‐volt  AC  transformer,  a  heat  exchanger,  a  blower  and  motor  assembly,  and  one  or  
more  air  filters.    The  standing-­‐pilot  is  the  main  distinguishing  characteristic  of  the  
low-­‐efficiency  conventional  gas  furnace.  
A  mid-­‐efficiency  gas  furnace  is  equipped  with  a  naturally  aspirating  gas  burner  and  
a  pilot  light.    The  pilot  light  is  unlike  a  standing-­‐pilot.    It  does  not  run  
continuously.    The  pilot  light  is  shut  off  when  the  furnace  is  not  in  operation  -­‐-­‐  when  
the  thermostat  is  not  calling  for  heat.    The  heat  exchanger  is  more  efficient  than  one  
inside  a  conventional  furnace.    There's  no  draft  hood.    There  may  be  a  small  fan  
installed  in  the  flue  pipe  to  create  an  induced  draft,  so  these  furnaces  are  sometimes  
referred  to  as  induced-­‐draft  furnaces.    A  mid-­‐efficiency  gas  furnace  is  also  equipped  
with  automatic  controls,  blower  and  motor  assembly,  venting,  and  air  
filtering.    Some  mid-­‐efficiency  furnaces  have  a  motorized  damper  installed  in  the  
exhaust  flue  pipe.    A  mid-­‐efficiency  furnace  is  about  20%  more  energy-­‐efficient  than  
a  conventional  gas  furnace.    A  mid-­‐efficiency  furnace  has  an  AFUE  rating  of  78  to  
82%.    The  intermittent-­‐pilot  is  the  main  distinguishing  characteristic.  
High-­‐efficiency  gas  furnaces  have  AFUE  ratings  of  90%  and  greater.    A  solid-­‐state  
control  board  controls  the  ignition.    There  is  no  continuous  pilot  light.  There  are  two  
or  sometimes  three  heat  exchangers  installed  inside  a  high-­‐efficiency  gas  
furnace.    Condensate  is  produced  when  heat  is  extracted  from  the  flue  gases.    The  
temperature  of  the  flue  gases  is  low  enough  to  use  a  PVC  pipe  as  the  vent  exhaust  
pipe.    There  is  no  need  to  vent  the  exhaust  gases  up  a  chimney  stack.    

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There  are  two  different  types  of  high-­‐efficiency  furnaces:  

• one  with  an  intermittent-­‐pilot  or  direct-­‐spark;  and  

• one  with  a  hot-­‐surface  ignition  system.      

The  production  of  excessive  condensate  is  the  main  distinguishing  characteristic.    

Intermittent-­‐Pilot  Furnace  
When  the  thermostat  on  a  
furnace  that  has  an  
intermittent-­‐pilot  calls  for  heat,  
there  is  a  short  ignition  period  
when  a  high-­‐voltage  spark  is  
generated.    The  spark  ignites  
the  pilot.    
When  lighting  the  pilot  flame,  
the  flame  must  be  confirmed  
through  a  flame-­‐confirmation  
process.    If  the  flame  is  
confirmed,  a  control  module  
sends  a  signal  to  the  main  gas  
valve.    The  valve  opens.    The  

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gas  flows  to  the  burner.  The  pilot  flame  lights  the  gas  burner.    The  burners  continue  
to  burn  until  the  thermostat  is  satisfied  at  a  desired  temperature.  The  satisfied  
thermostat  signals  to  stop  the  ignition  process  and  shuts  off  the  pilot  and  burner.    
Hot-­‐Surface  Ignition  (HSI)  Furnace  
The  hot-­‐surface  ignition  furnace  typically  has  two  or  more  heat  exchangers.    There’s  
no  pilot  light.    Instead,  there  is  an  electric  ignition  device.    This  device  is  often  called  
a  glow  plug  or  glow  stick.  The  HSI  starts  the  gas  burner.  When  the  thermostat  calls  
for  heat,  a  purge  cycle  starts  with  the  draft  fan  activating.    Then  the  igniter  lights  up  
to  a  very  high  (hot)  temperature.    The  gas  valve  is  opened,  and  gas  flows  to  the  
burner  and  is  ignited  by  the  HSI.    A  sensor  confirms  that  there  is  a  gas  flame  at  the  
burner  nozzle,  and  then  the  electric  power  to  the  igniter  is  turned  off.      

Gas  Furnace  Components  

Most  forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces  have  the  following  components  and  controls:  

• thermostat;  
• furnace  controls;  
• heat  exchanger;  
• gas  burners;  
• ignition  system;  
• blower  fan;  and  
• air  filter.  

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Furnace  Controls  
The  following  is  a  list  of  some  of  the  furnace  controls  that  may  be  found  at  a  gas  

• thermostat;  
• main  gas  valve;  
• thermocouple;  
• thermopile;  
• mercury  flame  sensor;  
• gas-­‐pressure  regulator;  
• fan  and  limit  control;  
• heat  exchanger;  
• gas  burners;  
• blower  fan  and  motor;  and    
• air  filtering.  

A  thermostat  controls  the  operation  of  the  furnace.    The  thermostat  senses  the  air  
temperature  in  the  room  or  space  that  is  being  heated.  It  sends  signals  to  open  and  
close  the  main  gas  valve.  
Heat  Exchanger  
The  heat  exchanger  is  a  metal  surface  located  in  between  the  hot  combustion  gases  
and  the  air  that  is  circulating  through  the  furnace.    The  hot  combustion  gases  heat  
up  the  metal  material  of  the  heat  exchanger,  and  the  heat  is  transferred  from  the  hot  
metal  to  the  air  passing  through  it.    The  warm  air  is  forced  through  the  ducts  or  
pipes  by  a  blower  fan,  and  distributed  to  the  rooms  or  areas  of  the  building.    
A  thermocouple  is  a  device  that  senses  heat.    It's  used  in  gas  furnaces  having  a  
standing-­‐pilot  light.    It  determines  whether  the  pilot  flame  is  lit  before  the  main  gas    

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valve  is  opened  to  supply  gas  to  the  burners.    The  flame  must  be  lit  before  the  valve  
is  opened.    
The  heat  of  the  pilot  flame  is  converted  to  electricity  by  the  thermocouple.    It  turns  
heat  into  an  electrical  current.    The  current  is  strong  enough  to  open  the  main  gas  
valve.    After  being  opened,  the  gas  flows  to  the  pilot  light.  If  the  thermocouple  does  
not  detect  a  pilot  flame,  it  will  turn  off  the  gas  supply  to  the  pilot.    The  electrical  
current  from  a  24-­‐volt  AC  transformer  operates  the  main  gas  valve.  
Instead  of  a  thermocouple,  a  thermopile  is  used  in  some  standing-­‐pilot  gas  
furnaces.    A  thermopile  senses  the  heat  from  a  pilot-­‐light  flame.    It  is  larger  than  a  
thermocouple.    It  operates  both  the  main  gas  valve  and  the  pilot  light.    If  there  is  a  
thermopile  present,  there’s  no  transformer  required.    
Mercury-­‐Flame  Sensor  
A  mercury-­‐flame  sensor  may  be  used  in  an  electronic  ignition  system.    It  consists  of  
a  sensor  filled  with  mercury,  a  capillary  tube,  and  a  switch.  The  burner  flame  heats  
up  the  sensor.    
Gas-­‐Pressure  Regulator  
The  pressure  regulator  is  installed  on  the  main  gas  valve.    It  regulates  the  gas  
pressure,  ensuring  a  constant  gas  pressure  in  the  burner  manifold.  In  a  propane  gas  
heating  system,  the  regulator  is  located  between  the  supply  tank  and  the  main  gas  
Fan  and  
The  fan  and  limit  
control  is  a  safety  
device.  It  is  installed  
inside  the  furnace  
plenum  where  it  
senses  the  air  
temperature  that  
passes  through  that  
area.    It  controls  the  
operation  of  the  

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furnace  within  a  temperature  range,  usually  between  80°  F  and  150°  F.    It  prevents  
the  furnace  from  overheating  by  turning  off  the  gas  supply  to  the  burner  
assembly.  It  can  also  turn  off  the  fan  when  the  burner  has  been  turned  off  and  the  
temperature  drops  below  the  lowest  setting.  

Heat  Exchanger  
The  heat  exchanger  is  made  of  steel.  It  may  be  aluminum  or  galvanized.    In  hostile  
environments,  heat  exchangers  can  be  coated  with  a  porcelain  material  to  provide  
protection  against  corrosive  chemicals.    
The  flames  come  from  the  burner  
and  go  into  an  enclosure  called  a  
combustion  chamber  or  
firebox.    The  heat  exchanger  is  
located  directly  above  that.    The  
heat  from  the  combustion  process  
taking  place  is  transferred  to  the  
metal  walls  of  the  heat  
exchanger.    The  heat  is  transferred  
from  the  metal  to  the  air  that  
passes  through  the  exchanger.    
The  heat  exchanger  can  reach  
several  hundred  degrees  in  
temperature.    Air  flowing  across  
the  heat  exchanger  must  travel  at  a  high  speed  and  must  be  uniform  across  all  
sections  of  the  exchanger.    If  the  air  flow  is  low  across  one  section,  that  section  of  the  
exchanger  will  overheat  and  may  cause  a  failure  in  the  exchanger.    
There  are  sections  of  the  heat  exchanger  called  cells.    There’s  one  cell  for  each  
burner,  and  the  burner  is  located  directly  below  the  exchanger  cell.  The  heat  moves  
up  from  the  burner  through  the  cell.    At  the  top  of  the  heat  exchanger,  a  manifold  
combines  all  of  the  open  cells  into  one  collection  device.    The  manifold  collects  the  
exhaust  gases  coming  up  and  out  of  each  cell  and  directs  the  gases  into  the  exhaust  
outlet.    The  vent  connector  pipe  (or  metal  flue  pipe)  is  connected  to  the  outlet.    The  
exhaust  gases  vent  through  this  pipe  to  outside.    

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The  exhausts  gases  heat  up  the  exchanger  to  a  very  high  temperature.    Air  from  the  
house's  interior  passes  up  through  the  exchanger,  and  heat  is  transferred.    Air  
enters  the  exchanger  at  about  70°  F  and  exits  at  about  140°  F.    A  temperature  rise  of  
about  70°  F  to  110°  F  is  acceptable.    
Overheating  and  failure  at  a  section  of  the  heat  exchanger  may  be  caused  by  a  flame  
touching  the  inner  surface  of  the  heat  exchanger's  metal.    Under  normal  conditions,  
the  flame  should  not  touch  the  heat  exchanger.  
Overheating  and  failure  at  a  section  of  the  heat  exchangers  may  also  be  caused  by  a  
firing  of  the  burners  that  is  excessive.  called  an  over-­‐firing.    
The  heat  exchanger  should  not  be  covered  with  soot,  carbon  deposits,  or  other  
debris.    That  will  reduce  the  furnace’s  efficiency.    Dirty  heat  exchangers  should  be  
cleaned  by  a  qualified  technician.  
Gas  Burners  
There  are  two  broad  categories  of  burners.    One  is  mono-­‐port;  the  other  is  multi-­‐
port.  You  will  find  the  mono-­‐port  burners  installed  in  a  furnace  with  a  forced  draft  
and  not  a  natural  draft.    The  mono-­‐port  burners  are  common  with  high-­‐efficiency  
furnaces.    They  can  fire  and  operate  in  any  direction  or  orientation.    Upflow,  
downflow  and  horizontal  furnaces  can  use  mono-­‐ports.    

Multi-­‐port  burners  are  generally  found  on  conventional  furnaces.    Multi-­‐port  

burners  can  be  ribbon,  drilled  or  slotted  burners.    

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Primary  and  Secondary  Air  
Gas  burners  combine  the  proper  mixture  of  air  and  gas  for  the  combustion  
process.    Both  primary  and  secondary  air  are  required.    Primary  air  is  that  which  
mixes  with  the  gas  before  going  to  the  burners.    Secondary  air  is  that  which  is  added  
to  the  flame  for  proper  combustion.    Secondary  air  flows  around  the  burners  and  
heat  exchanger.    It  mixes  with  unburned  gas  in  the  heat  exchanger.    Secondary  air  is  
drawn  into  the  burner  by  a  draft.  
Crossover  Igniter  
Many  gas  furnaces  have  individual  chambers  or  sections  of  the  heat  
exchanger.    Inside  each  section  is  a  flame  burner.    To  prevent  unburned  gas  from  
entering  the  combustion  chamber,  all  burners  should  fire  up  at  almost  the  same  
time.    This  simultaneous  ignition  can  be  provided  by  a  gas  burner  component  called  
a  crossover  or  crossover  igniter.    The  crossover  burner  is  installed  perpendicular  to  
and  across  the  top  
of  all  of  the  main  
connecting  them  
all  together.    When  
one  burner  ignites,  
the  crossover  
carries  a  flame  to  
the  other  burners  
and  ignites  
them.    It  bridges  
the  flame  from  one  
burner  to  the  next.  
If  you  are  looking  
at  the  flames  of  a  
burner,  the  flame's  
color  should  appear  blue.    The  flame  should  be  stable  and  not  waving.    It  should  not  
lift  off  the  burner.    It  should  not  float  around  the  sides  of  the  burner  or  drift  out.      

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Yellow  tips  on  the  flames  may  mean  that  there’s  inadequate  primary  air.    A  waving  
flame  may  indicate  a  venting  or  draft  problem.    It  could  also  mean  a  crack  in  the  heat  
exchanger.  You  do  not  want  to  see  the  flames  roll  out  of  the  combustion  chamber  
when  the  gas  ignites.    This  could  indicate  a  problem  with  the  firing,  a  block  in  the  
venting,  or  inadequate  secondary  air.    Look  for  scorched  metal  or  damaged  wiring  in  
the  front  of  the  unit.  
Inspection  Tip:    After  the  burners  on  a  conventional  furnace  ignite,  look  at  the  
flames.    Watch  the  flames  while  the  blower  fan  turns  on.    If  the  flames  waver  at  that  
particular  moment,  it  might  indicate  a  cracked  heat  exchanger.  
Blower  Fan  and  Motor  
           Forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces  have  blower  fans  installed.  A  blower  fan  has  two  

• it  moves  heated  air  through  the  distribution  supply  ducts  or  pipes;  and  
• it  protects  the  heat  exchanger  from  overheating  by  blowing  air  across  its  
metal  surfaces.    

The  air  enters  the  furnace,  gets  heated,  and  is  circulated  throughout  the  
building.    Some  say  that  the  fan  draws  in  (or  sucks)  the  air  into  the  furnace.  Others  
say  that  it  blows  air  out  through  the  system.    Whichever  is  the  case,  the  primary  
function  of  the  blower  fan  is  circulation.  
The  fan  motors  are  either  belt-­‐driven  or  direct-­‐drive.  Most  modern  furnaces  have  
blower  fans  with  direct-­‐drive  motors.    Direct-­‐drive  motors  have  various  fan  speeds  
than  can  be  set  and  adjusted  by  wiring.    Belt-­‐driven  motors  can  be  adjusted  for  
various  speeds  by  physically  adjusting  the  distance  between  the  fixed  flange  and  the  
movable  pulley.    
Modern  blower  fans  have  multiple  speeds.    A  multi-­‐speed  fan  operates  at  a  low  
speed  when  the  furnace  is  off.    This  allows  the  air  to  move  slowly  and  helps  with  air  
filtration  and  humidification,  for  example,  which  works  well  at  low  speeds.    The  
blower  fan  operates  at  a  high  speed  when  the  furnace  is  operating  or  when  the  air-­‐
conditioning  system  is  turned  on.  When  the  air-­‐conditioning  system  is  on,  the  
blower  fan  automatically  turns  on  at  a  higher  speed.    
There  are  many  reasons  that  rust  may  accumulate  on  the  burners,  including:  

• a  condensate  or  water  leak  from  above;  

• condensation  in  the  flue  running  back  into  the  combustion  chamber;  or  
• a  clothes  dryer  venting  into  the  furnace  room.  

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Dirt  and  Soot  
Dirt  and  soot  on  the  burners  could  cause  incomplete  combustion  and  make  the  
furnace  work  harder  to  heat  the  house.    Dirty  burners  likely  indicate  delayed  
Air  Filtering  
All  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  should  have  air  filtering  installed.    There  is  a  
variety  of  air  filters  available  for  furnaces.    Many  furnaces  are  equipped  with  a  
disposable  air  filter  that  cleans  the  circulating  air.    There  are  washable  air  filters  and  
electronic  air  filters.    Electronic  filters  are  high-­‐efficiency  air  filters.    
Air  filters  should  be  installed  in  the  path  of  the  air  that  enters  the  heating  system,  in  
the  return  plenum  or  duct.    
Proper  maintenance  of  the  air  filter  is  important  for  the  efficiency  of  the  furnace.    A  
dirty  or  clogged  air  filter  restricts  the  air  flow  through  the  system  and  can  cause  an  
excessive  rise  in  the  temperature.    This  temperature  rise  can  decrease  the  furnace's  
operating  efficiency  and  may  even  cause  damage  to  the  heat  exchanger.    
A  disposable  air  filter  should  be  checked  every  month  and  replaced  when  dirty.    If  a  
permanent  air  filter  is  installed,  it  should  be  checked  and  cleaned  periodically  
according  to  the  manufacturer’s  recommendation.    
There  are  six  basic  ways  to  vent  the  combustion  products  to  the  outside.    They  are:  

1. masonry  chimneys;  
2. low-­‐heat  Type  A  chimneys;  
3. Type  B  gas  vents;  
4. Type  C  gas  vents;  
5. wall  venting;  and  
6. PVC  pipe  venting.  


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Masonry  Chimneys  
Masonry  chimneys  should  have  a  flue  that  is  lined.  Smooth  tile  is  one  common  
material  for  flue  liners.    Many  chimneys  are  made  of  metal.    They  can  be  
prefabricated,  and  they  should  be  listed  by  the  Underwriters  Laboratories  for  use  
with  fuel-­‐burning  appliances.  
If  an  old,  conventional  low-­‐efficiency  furnace  has  been  replaced  by  a  mid-­‐efficiency  
or  high-­‐efficiency  furnace,  the  masonry  chimney  may  not  be  suitable  for  use  any  
longer.    The  gases  that  come  out  of  the  more  efficient  system  are  much  cooler  than  
those  that  are  produced  by  a  standing-­‐pilot  gas  furnace.    The  cool  gases  are  not  
buoyant  enough  to  rise  through  the  chimney.      They  will  condense  inside  the  
chimney  flue  and  will  damage  the  masonry  flue.    

A  chimney  provides  a  draft  and  a  means  to  vent  the  combustion  byproducts  of  the  
furnace.    A  good  chimney  draft  is  not  necessary  for  the  combustion  process  in  a  
furnace,  but  it  is  essential  for  venting  the  combustion  byproducts  to  the  outside  
through  the  chimney.    
A  height  of  a  typical  masonry  chimney  should  be  at  least  3  feet  above  the  roof  
surface,  or  2  feet  higher  than  any  other  part  of  the  building  within  10  feet  of  the  
Type  A  Chimneys  
Type  A  chimneys  are  low-­‐heat,  prefabricated  metal  chimneys.    They  have  been  
tested  and  approved  by  the  Underwriters  Laboratories.    
Type  B  Gas  Vents  
Type  B  gas  vents  are  UL-­‐listed.    They  are  recommended  for  all  standard  gas-­‐fired  
heating  systems.  
Type  C  Gas  Vents  
Type  C  gas  vents  are  typically  used  for  standard  gas-­‐fired  furnaces  that  are  installed  
in  the  attic  space.  
Wall  Venting  
Wall  venting  involves  having  the  combustion,  combustion  air,  and  combustion-­‐
product  venting  all  separated  from  the  interior  air  of  the  room  or  space  being  
heated.    The  combustion  gases  are  vented  through  the  wall.  

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PVC  Pipe  Venting  
High-­‐efficiency  furnaces  use  PVC  piping  to  vent  combustion  gases  and  byproducts  
outside.    You  usually  see  the  PVC  pipe  extending  from  the  furnace  through  the  wall  
to  the  outside.    A  PVC  vent  pipe  will  likely  indicate  a  high-­‐efficiency  gas  heating  
system.    The  pipe  is  typically  2  inches  in  diameter.    PVC  is  also  used  to  bring  fresh  
outdoor  air  into  the  system  for  combustion.    The  length  could  be  very  long  -­‐-­‐  
sometimes  as  long  as  60  feet.    

The  temperatures  of  the  combustion  byproducts  are  low  -­‐-­‐  100°  F  to  150°  F.    That’s  
very  cool.    The  PVC  does  not  melt.    It  will  feel  warm  to  the  touch.    That’s  one  way  to  
determine  which  pipe  is  the  exhaust.    
High-­‐efficiency  furnaces  should  not  be  vented  into  a  chimney.  The  exhaust  gases  
from  a  high-­‐efficiency  heating  system  are  too  cool  to  create  enough  chimney  
draft.    The  cool  gases  will  condense  inside  the  chimney  and  cause  damage.  

PVC  pipes  need  a  proper  slope.    The  pipe  should  be  sloped  down  and  toward  the  
furnace,  or  slope  up  and  away  from  the  furnace.  Typically,  ¼-­‐inch  per  linear  foot  is  
recommended.    The  pipe  should  be  sloped  and  adequately  supported  so  that  
condensate  does  not  form  and  puddle  inside  a  sagging  part  of  the  vent  pipe.    The  
condensate  should  be  allowed  to  drain  back  toward  the  furnace.    
Flue  Pipe  
The  flue  is  the  passage  through  which  the  gases  from  the  combustion  chamber  of  the  
heating  system  move  to  the  outside.    A  flue  is  also  referred  to  as  the  flue  pipe,  vent  
pipe,  or  vent  connector.    A  chimney  flue  is  the  flue  that  is  inside  a  chimney.    The  flue  
from  the  heating  system  to  the  chimney  is  often  called  the  vent  connector,  chimney  
connector,  or  smoke  pipe.    A  flue  outlet,  or  vent,  is  the  opening  in  a  heating  system  
through  which  the  flue  gases  move.      

Flue  Details  
The  flue  pipe  (or  vent  pipe  or  vent  connector)  connects  the  outlet  of  the  heating  
system  to  the  chimney.    The  flue  pipe  should  not  extend  farther  than  the  inner  liner  
surface  of  the  chimney  flue.    The  flue  pipe  of  a  heating  system  (furnace  or  boiler)  
should  not  be  sharing  the  same  chimney  as  a  conventional  fireplace.    Flue  pipes    

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from  two  appliances  should  not  enter  a  chimney  from  opposite  sides  at  the  same  
height.    From  the  point  where  a  flue  pipe  enters  the  chimney  stack,  there  should  be  
at  least  2  feet  of  clearance  above  the  chimney  cleanout.      
The  flue  pipe  should  have  a  slope  of  ¼-­‐inch  per  linear  foot.    The  flue  pipe’s  
horizontal  run  should  not  exceed  75%  of  the  vertical  run.    The  vent  pipe  crossovers  
in  an  attic  should  extend  at  an  angle  that  is  at  least  60  degrees  from  the  vertical.    

The  flue  pipe  should  be  at  least  the  same  diameter-­‐size  as  the  outlet  of  the  
furnace.    The  diameter-­‐size  of  the  flue  pipe  should  never  be  reduced.      

Draft  Hood  
A  draft  hood  is  installed  
on  standing-­‐pilot  gas  
furnaces.  Mid-­‐  and  high-­‐
efficiency  gas  furnaces  
do  not  have  draft  
hoods.    Draft  hoods  are  
attached  to  the  top  of  
the  furnace  above  the  
flue  outlet.  It  is  
sometimes  called  a  draft  
The  draft  hood  

functions  to  produce  a  

constant  low  draft  of  air  for  
the  combustion  chamber.    It  
allows  dilution  air  to  be  
drawn  into  the  vent  
pipe.    The  dilution  air  cools  
the  exhaust  and  ensures  a  
good  draft.    The  draft  hood  
also  prevents  large  
downdrafts  from  the  
chimney  affecting  the  

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The  draft  hood  can  be  built  into  the  furnace  cabinet  (internal  draft  diverter),  or  it  
could  be  installed  separately  above  the  top  of  the  heating  unit.    If  it  is  installed  
within  the  furnace  cabinet,  it  becomes  part  of  the  manifold  that  collects  all  of  the  
exhaust  gases  that  come  out  of  each  cell  of  the  exchanger.  





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Heat  Shield  
Most  conventional  gas  furnaces  
have  a  heat  shield.    This  
prevents  flame  rollout.    It  
contains  the  flames  inside  the  
burner  chamber.    It  also  
protects  the  burners  against  
strong  drafts.  

Gas-­‐Supply  Piping  
The  gas-­‐supply  piping  is  
sometimes  referred  to  as  the  
gas-­‐service  piping.    The  gas  
piping  must  be  installed  
properly  according  to  the  local  
codes  and  ordinances,  or,  if  
unavailable,  the  codes  in  
standards  such  as  the  National  Fuel  Gas  Code.    The  codes  will  recommend  the  
proper  sizing  of  the  pipes  for  the  required  gas  volumes.    

The  inlet  gas  supply  pipe  should  be  at  least  ½-­‐inch.    The  gas  line  from  the  supply  
should  serve  only  a  single  heating  system.  There  should  be  drip  leg  installed  near  
the  heating  system.    

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A  drip  leg  should  be  installed  at  the  bottom  of  the  gas-­‐supply  riser  near  the  heating  
system.  The  drip  leg  collects  dirt,  moisture  and  impurities  that  float  in  the  gas.    
A  gas  shut-­‐off  valve  should  be  installed  near  the  heating  system.    This  manual  shut-­‐
off  valve  is  sometimes  installed  on  the  gas-­‐supply  riser,  or  on  the  horizontal  pipe  
between  the  riser  and  the  union  fitting  near  the  heating  system.    
The  union-­‐joint  fitting  should  be  installed  between  the  manual  shut-­‐off  valve  and  
the  main  gas-­‐control  valve  on  the  heating  system.  The  union  joint  allows  the  gas-­‐
burner  assembly  to  be  easily  disconnected  for  service.    
Gas  Furnace  Inspection,  Service  and  Maintenance  
The  heating  system  should  be  inspected  by  a  qualified  service  technician  every  
year.    It  is  recommended  that  the  system  be  inspected  before  the  heating  
season.    The  technician  can  ensure  the  continued  safe  operation  of  the  heating  

Quiz  6  
A  ______  is  approximately  the  amount  of  energy  needed  to  heat  1  pound  of  water  by  1  
degree  Fahrenheit.  

• BTU  
• gas-­‐foot-­‐pound  
• steady-­‐state  

The  older  gas  furnaces  have  a(n)  ______  pilot  light  that  is  always  burning.  

• standing  
• intermittent  
• direct-­‐spark  

T/F:  There  may  be  at  least  two  heat  exchangers  inside  a  high-­‐efficiency  furnace.  

• True  
• False  

________  air  is  air  that  mixes  with  the  gas  before  going  to  the  burners.  

• Primary  
• Crossover  
• Secondary  

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Section  13:  Oil  Furnaces  
Oil  Furnaces  
There  are  different  types  of  oil  furnaces  according  to  their  orientation.    They  can  be  
described  as:  

• upflow;  
• downflow  (or  counterflow);  or  
• horizontal-­‐flow.  

They  can  be  of  various  capacities,  sizes  and  efficiencies.    They  can  be  installed  in  
various  spaces,  including  basements,  attic  and  closets.    All  furnaces  should  be  UL-­‐
listed  and  tested  for  safety.    

Conventional  Oil  Furnace  

Most  residential  oil  furnaces  in  homes  today  are  conventional.    They  are  not  high-­‐
efficiency  condensing  heating  systems.    These  conventional  furnaces  are  slowly  
being  replaced  by  mid-­‐  and  high-­‐efficiency  heating  systems.    If  you  are  inspecting  a  
conventional  oil  furnace  with  a  cast-­‐iron  burner,  it  likely  has  an  AFUE  (seasonal  
efficiency  rating)  of  60%,  which  is  categorized  as  low-­‐efficiency.  

Heating  Cycle  
Let’s  go  over  the  general  steps  of  the  heating  cycle  for  a  conventional  oil  
furnace.    First,  the  thermostat  calls  for  heat.    The  thermostat  closes  an  electrical  
circuit  to  a  control  relay.  Electrical  current  is  sent  to  both  the  oil  burner  transformer  
and  the  fuel  pump  motor.    
The  motor  on  the  fuel  pump  sucks  fuel  oil  from  the  supply  tank  and  pushes  it  to  the  
burner  nozzle  of  the  gun  assembly.    At  the  burner  nozzle,  fuel  is  combined  with  
air.  The  fuel  is  atomized.    A  blower  sends  combustion  air  into  the  combustion  
chamber.    The  transformer  sends  a  high-­‐voltage  electric  current  to  the  electrodes  in  
the  gun  assembly.  The  atomized  air-­‐fuel  mixture  is  ignited.    A  rumbling  sound  is  
created  by  this  burner.    This  noise  signals  that  the  heating  cycle  has  begun.  
There  is  a  safety  device  in  operation  when  the  burner  is  shooting  flames.    It  is  a  
cadmium  solenoid  photo-­‐cell,  referred  to  as  a  cad  cell.    The  cad  cell  “looks”  for  a  
flame  and  confirms  that  it  exists.    It  can  detect  the  flame  located  in  the  combustion  
chamber.    If  the  cad  cell  doesn’t  see  the  flame  within  a  few  seconds,  the  circuit  to  the  
burner  is  opened  and  the  burner  is  shut  down.    

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Some  oil  furnaces  don't  have  a  cad  cell  and,  instead,  have  a  stack  relay.    A  stack  relay  
senses  heat  instead  of  light.    If  the  stack  relay  does  not  sense  heat,  the  circuit  to  the  
burner  is  opened  and  the  burner  is  shut  down.    

This  safety  device  in  an  oil  furnace  is  similar  to  the  function  of  the  fan  and  limit  
control  for  a  gas  furnace.  
Mid-­‐Efficiency  and  High-­‐Efficiency  Oil  Furnaces  
The  energy  efficiency  of  an  oil  furnace  is  measured  by  its  annual  fuel  utilization  
efficiency  rating,  or  AFUE.    The  higher  the  AFUE  number,  the  higher  the  
efficiency.  The  minimum  rating  for  furnaces  is  78%.    Mid-­‐efficiency  furnaces  have  a  
rating  range  of  78  to  82%.    High-­‐efficiency  furnaces  have  a  rating  range  of  88  to  
92%.    Older  conventional  furnaces  have  a  rating  of  around  60  to  65%.    
Mid-­‐Efficiency  (Non-­‐Condensing)  
A  typical  non-­‐condensing,  mid-­‐efficiency  oil  furnace  uses  less  oil  than  a  conventional  
furnace.    At  a  mid-­‐efficiency,  non-­‐condensing  unit,  a  burner  shoots  flames  and  heat  
into  a  combustion  chamber.    The  chamber  (or  firepot)  is  usually  made  of  some  type  
of  heat-­‐resistant  ceramic  material.    Combustion  air  is  drawn  into  the  burner  
assembly  by  a  fan  where  it  mixes  with  the  oil.    The  gun  ignites  the  oil-­‐air  
mixture.    Flames  shoot  into  the  chamber,  and  heat  passes  up  through  the  heat  
exchanger.  The  combustion  byproducts  are  vented  to  the  outside.    The  blower  fan  
pushes  air  through  the  furnace  across  the  heat  exchanger.  Heat  is  transferred  from  
the  metal  of  the  exchanger  to  the  air.    
Many  mid-­‐efficiency  furnaces  do  not  use  a  chimney  to  vent  the  combustion  
byproducts  outside  but  simply  vent  through  a  sidewall  of  the  building.    A  draft  
damper  (or  barometric  damper)  is  not  necessary  on  the  flue  pipe.    
High-­‐Efficiency  (Condensing)  
A  typical  high-­‐efficiency  condensing  furnace  has  two  heat  exchangers.    The  heat  
exchangers  are  designed  to  extract  most  of  the  heat  from  the  combustion  gases    
before  they  are  vented  outside.    The  second  heat  exchanger  extracts  the  latent  heat  
that  is  in  the  water  vapor  of  the  combustion  gases.    Extracting  the  heat  lowers  the    

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temperature.    The  lower  temperature  causes  condensate  to  form.  The  extracted  heat  
is  added  to  the  warm  air  being  circulated.    The  condensate  drains  from  the  heating  
system.    The  cool  combustion  gases  are  vented  outside  through  a  PVC  vent  pipe  
installed  through  the  sidewall  of  the  building.  
Components  of  an  Oil  Furnace  
The  main  components  of  an  oil-­‐fired,  warm-­‐air  heating  system  include  the  

• furnace  controls;  
• heat  exchanger;  
• burner  assembly;  
• fuel  pump  and  motor;  
• blower  and  motor;  
• combustion  blower;  
• cleanout  and  observation  port;  
• vent  opening;  and  
• air  filtering.  

Furnace  Controls    
Furnace  controls  for  a  typical  oil  furnace  include  the  following:  

• thermostat;  
• cad  cell;  
• fan  controls;  and  
• delayed-­‐action  solenoid  valve.  

The  thermostat  controls  the  operation  of  the  heating  system.    It  senses  the  air  
temperature  in  the  room  that  is  being  heated.    It  calls  for  heat.  

The  cad  cell  is  a  safety  device.    It  “looks”  for  the  flame  inside  the  burner  chamber.  It  
confirms  that  a  flame  exists  when  the  burner  starts.    If  the  cad  cell  doesn’t  see  the  
flame  within  a  few  seconds,  the  circuit  to  the  burner  is  opened  and  the  burner  is  
shut  down.  

The  fan  and  limit  control  is  a  safety  device.  It  is  installed  in  a  metal  box  on  the  
outside  of  the  oil  furnace.    It  senses  the  air  temperature  that  passes  through  the  
furnace  plenum.    It  is  located  on  the  house-­‐air  side  of  the  heat  exchanger,  and  it  
measures  the  temperature  of  the  air  that  is  coming  out  of  the  heat  exchanger.    It  
controls  the  operation  of  the  blower  fan  within  a  temperature  range.    It  prevents  the  
furnace  from  overheating  by  turning  off  the  burner  if  the  furnace  gets  too  hot.    
When  the  air  coming  out  of  the  furnace's  heat  exchanger  is  warm  enough,  it  turns  on  

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the  blower  fan  and  pushes  air  to  the  rooms  and  spaces  of  the  building  being  heated.      
The  fan  and  limit  control  has  two  settings:  high  and  low.    When  the  temperature  in  
the  house  reaches  the  upper  setting,  the  burner  turns  off.    The  blower  fan  runs  until  
the  temperature  of  the  heat  exchanger  lowers  and  reaches  the  low  setting,  and  then  
the  blower  fan  turns  off.    
The  control  is  usually  set  to  turn  the  blower  fan  on  when  the  air  temperature  
reaches  around  120°  F  to  150°  F.    That  same  sensor  control  also  turns  the  fan  off  
when  the  air  temperature  drops  to  around  80°  F  to  110°  F.    
Some  modern  oil  furnaces  are  equipped  with  electronic  devices  that  control  the  
blower  fan  instead  of  the  fan  and  limit-­‐control  switches.  
Heat  Exchanger  for  an  Oil  Furnace  
The  heat  exchanger  is  the  part  of  the  furnace  that  transfers  heat  energy  from  the  
material  of  the  exchanger  to  the  air  that  passes  through  the  furnace  and  around  the  
exchanger.    The  exchanger  is  made  of  heavy-­‐gauge  steel.    The  exchanger  has  an  
upper  and  a  lower  chamber.  The  lower  part  contains  the  combustion  chamber,  
where  the  flames  are.      
The  combustion  chamber  
(often  referred  to  as  the  
firepot)  is  where  the  
combustion  takes  place.    The  
combustion  chamber  is  
inside  the  lower  part  of  the  
heat  exchanger.    The  
combustion  chamber  is  made  
of  a  material  that  can  
withstand  very  high  
temperatures.      Combustion  
chambers  can  be  made  of  stainless  steel,  cast  iron,  or  a  refractory  material,  such  as  
firebrick  or  ceramic  clay.    The  nozzle  of  the  burner-­‐gun  assembly  sticks  into  the  
chamber  area.    Most  chambers  are  round,  but  some  are  square  or  octagonal.  Some  
modern  oil  furnaces  have  sealed  combustion  chambers  that  help  with  increasing  

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Combustion  chambers  are  typically  about  10  inches  in  diameter  (or  wide)  and  13  
inches  tall.    



Oil  Burners  
The  most  common  oil  burner  that  you  will  see  is  the  atomizing  oil  burner,  
sometimes  called  a  gun-­‐type  burner.    There  are  some  special  burners  called  
vaporizing  or  pot-­‐type  burners.    There  are  a  few  parts  to  an  atomizing  oil-­‐burner  
assembly  that  are  important,  including:  

• burner  control;  
• re-­‐set  button;  
• oil  pump;  
• ignition  transformer;  
• cad  cell;  


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• gun;  
• nozzle;  and  
• electrodes.    

An  atomizing  burner  uses  an  electrical  pump  and  a  nozzle  that  atomizes  the  
oil.    "Atomizing"  means  that  the  oil  is  turned  from  a  liquid  to  a  spray  of  fine  
droplets.    This  spray  is  mixed  with  air.    The  mixture  is  then  ignited  by  a  high-­‐voltage  



The  burner  combines  fuel  oil  with  air  and  mixes  them  together.    It  delivers  the  fuel-­‐
air  mixture  to  the  gun  and  ignites  it.    

The  oil  pump  on  the  oil  burner  sucks  oil  from  the  oil  storage  tank  and  sends  it  to  the  
gun.    The  pump  delivers  the  oil  under  pressure  (between  around  75  to  120  psi).    The  
pump  is  usually  mounted  on  the  side  of  the  burner  assembly.  

Air  for  combustion  is  sucked  into  the  burner  by  a  combustion-­‐air  fan.    Air  gets  
sucked  through  the  air  ports  and  is  forced  down  the  blast  tube  of  the  gun  and  into  
the  head  where  the  electrodes  are  located.    The  barrel  of  the  gun  is  a  steel  tube  
about  3  inches  in  diameter  and  about  1  foot  long.    The  electrodes  are  at  the  end  of  
the  tube.    


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On  modern  burners,  the  flame-­‐retention  burner  device  is  usually  located  at  the  very  
end  of  the  tube.    
The  electrodes  behave  like  a  big  spark  plug.    The  electrodes  create  a  high-­‐voltage  
spark,  and  the  spark  ignites  the  oil  spray.    Once  the  flame  is  confirmed,  the  spark  
shuts  off  and  the  flame  continues.  
The  combustion  is  contained  inside  the  firepot  or  refractor  chamber  pot.    
Ignition  Transformer  
The  ignition  transformer  takes  the  120-­‐volt  electric  current  and  changes  it  into  a  
very  high  DC  voltage  for  the  electrodes  to  create  a  spark.  


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Oil  Burner  Flame  
Most  burners  have  a  flame  that  looks  like  a  blowtorch  with  a  long,  ragged  
flame.    The  flame  is  usually  orange  and  yellow  in  color,  with  yellow  tips.    There  may  
be  some  gray  or  black  smoke  above  the  flame.  Modern  burners  may  have  a  blue  
color  at  the  flame’s  core,  and  a  tight,  rounded  flame  pattern.  
Blower  Circulating  Fan  
The  main  blower-­‐circulating  fan  circulates  air  through  the  furnace  and  pushes  the  
heated  air  through  the  distribution  ducts  or  pipes  and  into  the  various  rooms  and  
spaces  of  the  building.    The  fan  draws  cool  air  into  the  furnace  and  pushes  the  air  
around  the  heat  exchanger  where  the  heat  is  transferred  from  the  exchanger  to  the  
air.    Both  belt-­‐drive  and  direct-­‐drive  blowers  can  be  found  on  oil  
furnaces.    Newer  furnaces  may  have  blowers  with  variable  speeds.  
Combustion-­‐Air  Blower  Fans  
Some  high-­‐efficiency  oil  furnaces  are  equipped  with  little  blower  fans  that  supply  air  
into  the  combustion  chamber.      
Observation  Ports  
Some  oil  furnaces  have  one  or  more  observation  ports  (or  cleanout  ports)  that  can  
be  used  for  observation  and  also  for  cleaning  the  heat  exchanger  and  chamber  area.    
Air  Filtering  
All  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  systems  should  have  air  filtering  installed.    There  are  
many  types  of  air  filters  available  for  furnaces.    Many  furnaces  are  equipped  with  a  
disposable  air  filter  that  cleans  the  circulating  air.    There  are  washable  air  filters  and  
high-­‐efficiency  electronic  air  filters  that  are  commonly  installed  in  furnaces,  too.    
Air  filters  should  be  installed  in  the  path  of  the  air  that  enters  the  heating  system  in  
the  cool-­‐air  return  plenum  or  duct.      
Proper  maintenance  of  the  air  filter  is  important  for  the  efficiency  of  the  furnace.    A  
dirty  or  clogged  air  filter  restricts  the  air  flow  through  the  system  and  can  cause  an  
excessive  rise  in  the  temperature.    This  temperature  rise  may  cause  damage  to  the  
heat  exchanger  or  lower  its  operating  efficiency.      
A  disposable  air  filter  should  be  checked  every  month  and  replaced  when  dirty.    If  a  

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permanent  air  filter  is  installed,  it  should  be  checked  and  cleaned  periodically,  
according  to  the  manufacturer’s  recommendation.    
Generally  speaking,  oil  furnaces  vent  in  the  same  way  that  gas  furnaces  do.    High-­‐
efficiency  oil  furnaces  can  use  PVC  piping  to  vent  the  combustion  byproducts  and  
gases  outside  through  a  sidewall  of  the  building.      
Flue  Pipe    
A  metal  flue  pipe  may  be  installed  at  the  oil  furnace.    There  should  be  a  slope  to  the  
horizontal  run  of  the  flue  pipe  of  at  least  ¼-­‐inch  per  linear  foot.  Ideally,  the  furnace  
should  not  be  more  than  10  flue-­‐pipe  diameters  from  the  chimney  
connection.    Appropriate  clearances  must  be  maintained  from  the  hot  flue  pipe  to  
combustible  materials.  
Barometric  Damper  
A  barometric  damper  is  often  called  the  draft  regulator  or  barometric  draft  
regulator.    The  barometric  damper  provides  a  proper  draft  in  the  oil  furnace  by  
automatically  reducing  or  diluting  the  chimney  draft  to  the  optimal  amount.    The  
barometric  damper  on  an  oil  furnace  is  similar  to  that  of  the  draft  hood  on  a  gas-­‐
fired  appliance.    Dampers  or  regulators  are  recommended  for  all  oil  furnaces  (or  oil-­‐
fired  appliances)  that  are  connected  to  a  chimney,  unless  the  particular  unit  is  listed  
for  use  without  one.  
When  inspecting,  you  should  find  the  damper  in  the  horizontal  flue  pipe  located  as  
close  as  possible  to  the  chimney.    
Oil  Fuel  Supply  Tank  
The  fuel  supply  tank  is  often  called  the  oil  storage  tank.    The  fuel  supply  tank  holds  
the  fuel  oil.    It  can  be  located  inside  or  outside.    It  could  be  located  above  or  below  
the  level  of  the  heating  system.  If  the  tank  is  located  outside,  it  could  be  
underground  or  above  ground.    

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A  tank  may  be  made  of  
fiberglass,  but  it's  
typically  made  of  14-­‐gauge  
steel.    The  typical  size  of  an  
oil  tank  is  275  gallons.    
The  tank  is  directly  
connected  to  the  fuel  pump  
of  the  heating  system  with  a  
fuel  line.  

There  are  one-­‐pipe  systems  

and  two-­‐pipe  systems  that  
connect  the  tank  to  the  
heating  system.    When  you  
see  a  one-­‐pipe  system  
where  only  one  fuel  line  
pipe  is  connected  to  the  
burner  assembly,  the  tank  is  
usually  installed  in  the  same  location  as  the  heating  system,  such  as  both  being  
located  in  the  basement.    When  you  see  a  two-­‐pipe  system  where  there  are  two  fuel  
line  pipes,  then  the  tank  is  usually  located  outside.    The  distance  between  the  tank  
and  the  heating  system  is  likely  long,  with  the  tank  located  vertically  above  the  
heating  system;  otherwise,  the  tank  cannot  use  gravity  to  move  oil  to  the  burner.  

A  shut-­‐off  valve  should  

be  installed  on  the  
suction  line.  You  may  
find  a  valve  installed  
near  the  tank  or  near  
the  heating  system.    
In  general,  the  filler  pipe  
should  be  a  minimum  of  
2  inches  in  diameter,  
and  the  vent  pipe  1¼  
inches  in  diameter.    The  
pipes  should  be  made  of  
wrought  iron.  The  oil  
supply  lines  between  
the  oil  supply  tank  and  
the  oil  burner  should  be  
made  of  copper  tubing.    

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Oil  Filter  
An  oil  filter  should  be  installed  on  the  fuel  line  in  between  the  oil  storage  tank  and  
the  burner.    The  oil  filter  will  likely  be  a  cartridge-­‐type.    The  filter  cartridge  should  
be  changed  at  least  once  a  year.    The  filter  body  should  be  cleaned  before  a  new  
cartridge  is  installed.  

The  filter  prevents  sludge  in  the  oil  from  clogging  the  fuel  pump  and  the  oil  burner  
nozzle,  which  otherwise  will  cause  system  failure.  

Section  14:  High-­‐Efficiency  Heat  

High-­‐Efficiency  Heat  Exchangers    
High-­‐efficiency  furnaces  
use  the  principle  that  as  
hot  gases  cool,  they  
release  a  lot  of  heat  
energy  as  they  change  
their  state  from  a  gas  to  a  
liquid.    Burning  natural  
gas  creates  water  (vapor)  
and  carbon  dioxide.    As  
we  cool  the  exhaust  
byproducts,  heat  is  
released.    If  we  can  cool  
the  vapor  into  a  liquid,  a  
tremendous  amount  of  
heat  can  be  extracted.    

We  can  cool  that  vapor  

inside  a  furnace  using  the  
heat  exchangers.    High-­‐efficiency  furnaces  have  at  least  two  heat  exchangers.    The    

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exchanger  inside  a  high-­‐efficiency  is  very  long  -­‐-­‐  longer  than  that  of  a  conventional  
or  mid-­‐efficiency  furnace.    As  the  hot  exhaust  gases  flow  through  the  long  
exchanger,  the  gases  cool  to  the  point  that  they  condense.    By  the  time  the  exhaust  
combustion  gases  leave  the  high-­‐efficiency  furnace,  the  gas  temperature  could  be  
around  100°  F.    

Condensation  takes  place  in  the  second  (or  third)  heat  exchanger.    That’s  why  they  
are  usually  made  of  stainless  steel,  because  it  is  more  corrosion-­‐resistant.    The  first  
heat  exchanger  is  typically  made  of  conventional  galvanized  steel.    
The  condensate  comes  out  of  the  exchanger  and  drains  into  tubes  or  pipes.    The  
condensate  may  discharge  into  a  drain  fitting,  a  floor  drain,  a  drainpipe,  or  a  
condensate  pump.    It  is  not  good  practice  to  simply  drain  the  condensate  through  
the  floor  and  into  the  gravel  and  soil  below  the  concrete  floor.    The  condensate  
water  is  slightly  acidic.    It’s  not  as  acidic  as  vinegar,  but  some  jurisdictions  restrict  
the  discharge  of  the  condensate.  

When  a  high-­‐efficiency  condensing  furnace  is  operating,  a  quart  of  condensate  water  
may  drain  out  every  30  minutes.    That’s  a  lot  of  water.        

Section  15:  Coal,  Wood  and  Multi-­‐Fuel  

Coal,  Wood  and  Multi-­‐Fuel  Furnaces  
Solid-­‐fuel,  forced  warm-­‐air  furnaces  can  burn  coal  or  wood.    Some  multi-­‐fuel  
furnaces  are  designed  to  burn  a  solid  fuel,  such  as  coal,  in  combination  with  another  
fuel,  such  as  oil.    In  a  coal,  wood  or  multi-­‐fuel  furnace,  the  combustion  process  takes  
place  inside  a  large  sealed  firebox.    A  blower  fan  circulates  air  over  the  heat  
exchanger  and  pushes  the  warm  air  through  ducts  or  pipes  to  the  rooms  and  spaces  
of  the  building.  
Coal  Furnaces    
Coal  furnaces  are  either  hand-­‐fired  or  fired  with  a  stoker.    Coal  has  to  be  brought  
from  the  storage  to  the  furnace  either  by  hand,  or  automatically,  with  a  coal-­‐feeding  
mechanism  known  as  the  stoker.    Early  coal  furnaces  were  gravity  systems.    Systems  
built  later  incorporated  blower  fans.  

The  front  of  a  coal  furnace  should  not  be  blocked.    Access  to  the  fire  and  ash  pit  
doors  is  required  to  run  the  furnace.  

The  components  of  a  coal  furnace  include:  

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• cabinet  or  jacket;  
• firebox;  
• grate;  
• heat  exchanger;  
• blower  fan  and  motor;  
• access  door  for  stoking  and  cleaning;  
• small  blower  fan  to  fan  the  fire;  
• coal  stoker;  and  
• automatic  controls.  

Wood  Furnace  
A  wood  furnace  is  very  similar  to  a  coal  furnace  except  that  it  burns  wood  instead  of  
coal.    The  components  and  accessories  for  the  two  types  of  furnaces  are  almost  
Multi-­‐Fuel  Furnaces  
A  furnace  that's  designed  to  burn  more  than  one  fuel  is  referred  to  as  a  multi-­‐fuel  
furnace  or  combination  furnace.    A  combination  furnace  is  able  to  burn  oil  or  gas  in  
one  combustion  chamber,  and  wood  or  coal  in  another  combustion  chamber.    It  has  
the  ability  to  switch  between  the  two  when  desired.    
The  furnace  should  be  serviced  and  cleaned  by  a  qualified  technician  on  a  regular  
basis  to  ensure  its  safe  and  secure  operation.    An  inspector  may  check  the  heat  
exchanger  and  smoke  pipe.    The  furnace  jacket  could  be  checked  for  cracks.    All  
access  doors  should  close  tightly.    The  air  filter  should  be  clean.    Ash  and  other  
debris  should  be  removed  from  the  combustion  chamber  on  a  daily  basis  when  in  
regular  operation.    Heating  surfaces  of  the  furnace  should  be  kept  clean.    Hard  
clinkers  should  be  removed  from  the  grates.    

Section  16:  Hydronic  Heating  Systems  

Hydronic  Heating  Systems  

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A  hydronic  heating  system  is  a  forced  hot-­‐water  heating  system.    Water  is  the  heat-­‐
conveying  medium  for  hot-­‐water  heating  systems.    Water  carries  the  heat  to  the  
rooms  and  spaces  in  a  house.    The  hot  water  circulates  in  the  system  by  gravity  flow,  
or  the  water  is  forced  into  circulation  by  a  pump.    In  a  typical  hot-­‐water  heating  
system,  the  water  is  heated  in  a  boiler  or  water  heater  unit  and  circulates  through  
distribution  pipes  to  baseboard  convectors  or  radiators.    The  boiler  or  water  heater  
can  use  various  fuels  for  heating  the  water,  including  No.  2  fuel  oil,  natural  gas,  
propane,  coal,  electricity,  or  a  solid  fuel.  
The  radiators  or  baseboards  are  usually  located  within  rooms  and  hallways  at  the  
outside  edge  of  the  structure,  along  the  exterior  walls.    There  may  be  radiant  panels  
in  the  floor  or  ceiling.    There  may  be  one  or  more  thermostats  installed  in  the  
house.    When  the  thermostat  calls  for  heat,  the  boiler  or  water  heater  heats  the  
water  and  sends  the  hot  water  into  radiators  or  baseboards.    The  heat  is  released  
and  distributed  to  the  interior  using  natural  convection.  
Identifying  and  Describing  Hot-­‐Water  Heating  
There  are  three  ways  to  describe  hot-­‐water  heating  systems  using  the  following  
broad  categories:  
• supply  water  temperature;  
• the  type  of  water  circulation;  and  
• the  arrangement  of  the  distribution  pipes.  
Supply  Water  Temperature  
A  hot-­‐water  system  that  supplies  hot  water  at  temperatures  higher  than  250°  F  is  
referred  to  as  a  high-­‐temperature  system.    This  type  of  system  is  usually  installed  in  
commercial  and  industrial  buildings.    A  low-­‐temperature  system  is  one  that  supplies  
hot  water  at  temperatures  below  250°  F,  and  it's  generally  installed  in  residential  
and  small  buildings.  
Type  of  Water  Circulation  
Every  hot-­‐water  heating  system  circulates  water  either  by  a  pump,  as  with  a  forced  
hot-­‐water  heating  system,  or  by  gravity,  as  with  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  
system.    Gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  systems  rely  on  gravity  and  the  different  
weights  of  water,  which  are  determined  by  the  differences  in  temperature  of  the  
water,  similar  to  the  principles  related  to  air  temperature.    As  such,  hot  water  is  
lighter  than  cold  water.  

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Arrangement  of  the  Distribution  Pipes  
There  are  four  types  of  distribution-­‐pipe  arrangements  for  a  hot-­‐water  heating  
system.    They  include  the:  
• one-­‐pipe  system;  
• series-­‐loop  system;  
• two-­‐pipe  direct-­‐return  system;  and  
• two-­‐pipe  reverse-­‐return  system.  

One-­‐Pipe  System  

In  a  one-­‐pipe  system,  there  is  one  single  pipe  that  carries  the  hot  water  throughout  
the  system.    That  single  pipe  carries  the  hot  water  to  the  radiators  or  baseboard  

convectors,  and  it  also  carries  the  cool  water  back  to  the  boiler  or  water-­‐heating  
unit.    Each  heat-­‐emitting  unit  (radiator  or  baseboard)  is  connected  to  this  main  
single  pipe  with  two  smaller  branch  pipes,  which  are  the  feed  line  and  the  return  

One-­‐pipe  systems  can  be  forced-­‐  or  gravity-­‐types.    

The  main  advantage  of  a  one-­‐pipe  system  is  that  each  radiator  or  convector  can  be  
controlled  individually  without  interfering  with  the  flow  of  water  to  the  other  heat-­‐
emitting  units.    Zoning  can  be  achieved  in  a  one-­‐pipe  system  by  installing  a  separate  
loop,  a  pump  (for  forced),  and  another  thermostat.  

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Series-­‐Loop  System  
In  a  series  loop,  each  heat-­‐emitting  unit  (radiator  or  baseboard  convector)  forms  an  
integral  part  of  the  loop  or  piping  circuit.    When  you  shut  off  one  unit,  then  the  
entire  flow  of  water  is  stopped.    The  water  travels  from  the  heating  system,  flows  
through  each  heat-­‐emitting  unit,  and  returns  to  the  heating  system  -­‐-­‐  all  in  one  
continuous  loop  of  pipe.    There  are  no  pipe  branches.    All  of  the  heat-­‐emitting  units  
are  connected  one  after  another  in  a  series.    As  a  result,  the  heat-­‐emitting  unit  that  is  
closest  to  the  heating  system  is  the  hottest,  and  the  one  farthest  away  is  the  
coldest.    It  is  not  easy  to  balance  this  system.  

Two-­‐Pipe  Direct-­‐Return  System  

In  a  two-­‐pipe  direct-­‐return  system,  hot  water  returns  to  the  heating  system  (boiler  
or  water  heater)  directly  from  each  heat-­‐emitting  unit.    Hot  water  does  not  pass  
through  any  other  heat-­‐emitting  unit  on  its  way  back  to  the  heating  unit.    The  hot    


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water  supply  pipes  and  the  cool  water  return  pipes  are  separate  pipes.    Each  heat-­‐
emitting  unit  is  connected  to  the  supply  and  return  lines  separately.  



Two-­‐Pipe  Reverse-­‐Return  System  

In  a  two-­‐pipe  reverse-­‐return  system,  a  balance  is  achieved  because  there  are  
separate  circuits  for  each  radiator  or  baseboard  of  equal  length  from  the  heating  
unit.    Regardless  of  the  location  of  the  heat-­‐emitting  unit,  the  length  of  pipe  in  that  
circuit  will  be  equivalent  to  any  other  circuit.    In  this  system,  there  exists  a  central  
main  pipe  that  collects  all  of  the  cool  return  water  that  comes  out  of  each  radiator  or  
baseboard  unit  before  entering  the  boiler  or  water  heater.    The  closest  radiator  in  
the  system  has  the  shortest  supply-­‐pipe  length  and  the  longest  return  pipe.    The  
farthest  radiator  has  the  longest  supply-­‐pipe  length  and  the  shortest  return  pipe.    
Combination  of  Systems  
You  may  see  a  combination  of  pipe  arrangements  in  one  hot-­‐water  heating  
system.    You  may  see  a  series  loop  tapped  off  a  two-­‐pipe  system.  

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Zoning  is  achieved  by  installing  valves  and  thermostats  in  the  hot-­‐water  supply  
pipes.    A  valve  may  be  wired  up  to  a  thermostat  that  activates  that  valve  and  
controls  that  zone.    Balancing  a  system  can  be  achieved  by  zoning  or  breaking  up  a  
large  system  into  smaller  ones  that  are  independently  controlled  by  thermostats.  


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Radiant  Panels  
There  may  be  radiant  panel  units  installed  on  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system.    A  radiant  
panel  is  considered  neither  a  radiator  nor  a  baseboard  convector.    The  pipes  are  
concealed  in  the  floor,  ceiling  or  wall.    The  floor,  ceiling  or  wall  acts  as  the  heat-­‐
emitting  unit.    The  use  of  an  infrared  camera  comes  in  handy  for  inspecting  these  
embedded  systems.  
Gravity  Hot-­‐Water  Heating  Systems  
You  may  find  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  system  installed  in  an  old  home.    You  can  
identify  a  gravity  system  by  its  large-­‐diameter  pipes  made  of  wrought  iron  or  black  
iron.    The  very  large  pipes  would  be  the  supply  lines  used  to  deliver  the  hot  water  to  
the  rooms  and  spaces  of  the  building.    The  boiler  of  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  
system  would  likely  be  made  of  cast  iron.    You  may  find  that  the  old  boiler  was  
converted  from  burning  coal  or  wood  to  oil  or  gas.    

The  main  method  by  which  the  water  moves  in  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  system  
is  via  the  differences  in  weight  of  the  water  at  different  temperatures.    Hot  water  
floats  and  cold  water  falls.    The  difference  in  weight  (the  specific  gravity)  of  water  at  
different  temperatures  moves  the  water  or  circulates  it  throughout  the  system  
without  the  use  of  a  pump.    Hot  water  is  light,  and  cold  water  is  heavy.    Gravity  
systems  are  sometimes  referred  to  as  thermal  or  natural  hot-­‐water  heating  systems.  

The  heat  supplied  to  the  rooms  of  a  building  with  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  
system  feels  continuous  and  uniform.    The  water  temperature  can  be  controlled  for  
each  heat-­‐emitting  unit.    The  air  temperature  can  be  controlled  for  each  room.    

The  movement  of  water  based  upon  the  principle  of  gravity  and  different  
temperatures  is  easy  to  understand.    One  cubic  foot  of  water  at  68°  F  weighs  62.31  
pounds.    At  212°  F,  the  water  weighs  59.82  pounds.    The  difference  in  weight  is  
caused  by  the  expansion  of  the  hot  water.    Hot  water  expands.    This  2.49-­‐pound  
difference  makes  the  water  circulate  through  the  system  because  hot  water  is  light  
and  rises,  and  cold  water  is  heavy  and  falls.    In  a  gravity  hot-­‐water  heating  system,  
the  cool  water  falls  and  pushes  the  warmer,  lighter  water  upward.    


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Because  water  expands  when  heated,  a  provision  for  expansion  is  needed  in  hot-­‐
water  heating  systems.    
Forced  Hot-­‐Water  Heating  Systems  
The  most  commonly  used  methods  for  forcing  hot  water  to  circulate  in  a  system  are  
by  pumps,  or  by  a  combination  of  pumps  and  local  boosters.    There  are  other  ways  
of  forcing  water  to  circulate  in  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system,  but  they  are  not  as  

They  include:  

• the  use  of  nipples  on  each  radiator  section;  

• high  pressure  to  increase  temperature  differences;  
• super-­‐heating  a  part  of  the  water  circulation,  and  creating  and  condensing  
steam;  and  
• introducing  steam  into  a  main  riser  pipe  at  the  top  of  a  circulating  system.  

It  is  common  to  find  one  or  more  pumps  as  the  main  method  of  circulating  or  forcing  
hot  water  in  a  system.  
Hot-­‐Water  Boilers  
The  boilers  of  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system  that  you  may  inspect  may  be  made  of  cast  
iron  or  steel.    Cast  iron  is  more  common  because  cast-­‐iron  boilers  generally  have  
good  resistance  to  the  corrosive  effects  of  water  than  do  steel  boilers.    Boilers  may  
be  fired  up  with  various  fuels,  including  oil,  solid  fuels,  gas  (natural  or  propane),  and  

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electricity.    On  older  systems,  you  may  find  that  the  coal  boiler  was  converted  to  gas  
or  oil.    All  boilers  should  be  certified  and  have  some  label  to  that  effect.    There  are  
several  organizations  that  certify  boilers.    

Hydronic  Furnaces  
A  hydronic  furnace  is  one  that  has  water  heated  up  initially  by  a  boiler  or  water  
heater,  and  then  it's  circulated  through  a  heat  exchanger  inside  the  furnace's  air  
handler.    The  heat  exchanger  is  a  coil  of  pipes  that  transfers  liquid-­‐to-­‐air  heat.    Heat  
is  transferred  from  the  water  in  the  coils  to  the  air  that  passes  through  the  furnace's  
air  handler.    A  blower  fan  circulates  the  air  through  the  coil.    The  heated  air  comes  
out  of  the  furnace  and  is  distributed  to  the  structure  through  ducts  or  pipes.    This  
installation  is  sometimes  referred  to  as  a  hydro-­‐air  heating  system.      

Combination  Water  Heaters  

A  combination  water  heater  can  produce  both  hot  water  for  heating  the  building  
and  hot  water  for  heating  the  domestic  hot-­‐water  supply  at  the  same  time.    There  is  
either  a  tank  or  a  coil  immersed  inside  the  hot  water  of  the  boiler.    The  hot  water  of  
the  boiler  indirectly  heats  the  water  of  the  inner  tank  or  coil.    

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The  boiler  water  transfers  its  heat  by  conduction  to  the  domestic  water  supply  in  
the  inner  tank  or  coil.    The  two  supplies  of  water  (the  water  in  the  boiler  and  the  
water  in  the  inner  tank  or  coil)  are  completely  separate  from  each  other.    There’s  no  
mixing  or  contamination.    A  combination  water  heater  may  incorporate  the  use  of  a  
circulating  pump,  expansion  tank,  pressure-­‐reducing  fill  valve,  and  a  zone  valve.    A  
combination  water  heater  may  also  use  steam  to  heat  the  domestic  hot-­‐water  


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Control  Components  
There  are  two  types  of  control  components  for  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system.    One  
type  is  for  system-­‐actuating,  and  the  other  type  is  for  safety.    System-­‐actuating  
controls  include  the  thermostat,  burner  controls,  and  pump  controls.    

 Safety  controls  include  high-­‐limit  controls,  pressure-­‐relief  valves,  and  pressure-­‐

reducing  valves.    Safety  controls  prevent  damage  to  the  system  and  may  prevent  the  
risk  of  injuring  people  by  shutting  down  the  system  when  pressure  and/or  
temperature  levels  become  excessive.    A  high-­‐limit  control  is  a  device  that  shuts  
down  the  system  if  the  pressure  or  temperature  of  the  hot  water  exceeds  a  certain  


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 Another  safety  control  is  a  pressure-­‐relief  valve.    A  pressure-­‐relief  valve  opens  up  
and  releases  pressure  when  the  water  pressure  inside  the  boiler  exceeds  a  certain  
limit.    Pressure-­‐relief  valves  are  required  to  be  installed  on  all  boilers  and  water-­‐
heating  systems.    
The  pipes  of  a  hydronic  system  may  be  made  of  cast  iron,  wrought  iron,  copper,  
steel,  plastic  or  rubber.      The  diameter-­‐size  of  the  pipe  is  dependent  upon  various  
factors,  including  the  water’s  flow  rate,  and  the  friction  inside  the  pipe  material.    

Expansion  Tanks  
Expansion  tanks  are  necessary  on  hot-­‐water  heating  systems  because  hot  water  
expands.    The  tank  provides  a  way  to  absorb  the  expansion  of  the  water  being  
heated,  and  it  assists  in  the  contraction  of  the  water  as  it  cools.    When  water  in  the  
system  heats  up,  it  expands  into  the  tank.    Excess  water  expands  into  the  expansion  

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 Why  is  the  expansion  tank  always  found  above  the  heating  system?    An  added  
benefit  or  function  of  an  expansion  tank  is  that  the  boiling  point  of  the  water  can  be  
raised  by  elevating  the  tank.    When  you  elevate  or  raise  an  expansion  tank,  you  
increase  the  head,  which  is  a  term  used  to  describe  the  difference  in  elevation  
between  two  points  in  a  body  of  fluid.    When  you  increase  the  head,  you  increase  the  
pressure.    This  results  in  the  ability  to  heat  water  at  a  significantly  higher  
temperature  without  generating  steam.    The  more  heat  that  is  supplied  to  the  heat-­‐
emitting  units,  the  better.    That  is  why  you  will  always  see  an  expansion  tank  over  
the  boiler.  

According  to  Boyles’  Law,  at  a  constant  temperature,  the  pressure  of  a  gas  varies  
inversely  to  its  volume.    When  the  volume  is  reduced,  the  pressure  increases  
inversely  proportionately.    If  the  volume  of  air  inside  an  expansion  tank  decreases  
by  half,  then  the  pressure  increases  by  a  factor  of  2.    (This  refers  to  absolute  
pressure,  not  gauge  pressure.)  

On  older  gravity  systems,  you  may  find  an  open  expansion  tank.    Open  tanks  are  
used  on  low-­‐pressure  systems,  such  as  gravity  systems.    A  closed  tank  is  installed  on  


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high-­‐pressure  hydronic  heating  systems.    As  the  temperature  of  the  water  increases,  
the  water  in  the  system  expands.    As  the  water  expands,  water  enters  the  tank.    In  a  
closed  system,  the  expansion  tank  has  air  that  is  compressed  and,  as  a  result,  the  
pressure  in  the  system  is  increased.    On  a  closed  system,  it  is  important  to  look  for  
the  required  pressure-­‐relief  valve.  
Circulating  Pumps  
Circulating  pumps  are  used  to  circulate  hot  water  in  a  hydronic  forced  hot-­‐water  
heating  system.    They  push  the  water  through  the  piping  system.    The  pump  should  
be  placed  in  the  correct  position  on  the  heating  system  in  order  to  be  
effective.    Manufacturers  usually  describe  the  proper  location  of  the  pump  in  the  
unit's  installation  manual.    
Heat-­‐Emitting  Units  
Heat-­‐emitting  units  are  the  radiators,  baseboard  convectors,  and  other  heat-­‐
emitting  components  from  which  the  heat  is  transferred  into  the  room  and  spaces  of  
the  building.    Cast-­‐iron  radiators  are  common  in  older  systems.    They  may  be  
located  on  the  floor  or  hung  on  the  wall.    The  radiators  may  be  recessed  inside  a  
wall,  or  partially  covered  or  enclosed  by  a  cabinet  structure.    If  the  radiator  is  
covered,  there  should  be  openings  provided  at  the  top  and  bottom  of  the  covering  or  
cabinet  to  allow  air  to  circulate.    

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Convectors  are  tubes  with  fins  on  them.    The  finned  tubes  are  enclosed  in  a  cabinet  
or  baseboard  unit  with  openings  at  the  top  and  the  bottom.    As  the  hot  water  moves  
through  the  tubes,  the  fins  get  hot  and  radiate  heat.    Room  air  enters  the  cabinet  or  
baseboard  from  the  bottom,  and  exits  from  the  top  through  openings.  

Radiant  floor  units  may  be  made  of  flexible  tubing  installed  directly  below  the  
floor.    The  heat  is  transferred  from  the  tubing  into  the  floor  surface.    Flexible  tubes  
and  radiant  panels  are  also  used  as  heat-­‐emitting  units  in  ceilings  and  walls.  
Electric  Hydronic  Heating  Systems  
Hydronic  heating  systems  may  use  electricity  to  heat  the  water.    Electric  hydronic  
heating  systems  are  usually  compact  electric  boilers  or  water  heaters,  available  in  
various  small  sizes.    

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Advantages  of  Hydronic  Heating  Systems  
There  are  many  advantages  of  hydronic  heating  systems.    The  heat  is  uniformly  
delivered.    Less  energy  is  used  to  circulate  water  through  pipes  than  is  needed  to  
circulate  air  through  a  duct  system.    It  is  easy  to  zone  a  hydronic  heating  
system.    The  indoor  air-­‐quality  issues  are  reduced  because  there  is  no  air  agitation  
as  there  is  with  a  forced  warm-­‐air  system.  

Boiler  Control  Devices  

Steam  and  hot-­‐water  (hydronic)  heating  boilers  look  similar,  but  there  are  several  
important  differences.    

• Steam  boilers  operate  at  about  three-­‐quarters  full  of  water.    

• Hot-­‐water  boilers  operate  full  of  water.  
• Steam  boilers  in  homes  operate  around  2  psi  (or  slightly  more).  
• Hot-­‐water  boilers  operate  six  times  that.  
• A  steam  boiler  has  a  low-­‐water  cutoff  device.  
• Hot-­‐water  boilers  in  homes  likely  don't.  
• Steam  boilers  need  a  water  feed  to  replace  water  lost  through  evaporation  
and  steam.  
• Hot-­‐water  boilers  have  little  or  no  need  for  makeup  water.    

Most  of  the  controls  on  low-­‐pressure  steam  and  hot-­‐water  boilers  (fired  by  the  same  
fuel)  are  similar,  but  there  are  exceptions.  

A  variety  of  controls  are  required  on  hot-­‐water  heating  systems.  They  are  either  
system-­‐actuating  controls  (thermostats,  burner  controls,  pump  controls)  or  safety  
controls  (high-­‐limit  switches,  pressure-­‐relief  valves,  pressure-­‐reducing  valves).  

Safety  Controls    
Safety  controls  shut  down  the  system  to  prevent  damage,  particularly  when  the  
temperature  and  pressure  limits  are  exceeded.  A  high-­‐limit  control  on  a  hot-­‐water  
boiler  will  help  shut  down  the  system  if  the  pressure  or  temperature  of  the  hot  
water  exceeds  set  limits.    

Pressure-­‐Relief  Valves  
Pressure-­‐relief  valves  are  important  safety  controls  for  hot-­‐water  heating  systems.  
When  the  pressure  inside  a  boiler  reaches  a  certain  point,  the  pressure-­‐relief  valve  
will  open  up.  It  closes  when  the  boiler  pressure  returns  to  a  lower,  safe  level.  
Pressure-­‐relief  valves  are  required  to  be  installed  on  hot-­‐water  heating  systems.  
Check  with  your  local  building  code.  

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Pressure-­‐Relief  Valve  on  Steam  Systems    
A  pressure-­‐relief  valve  (or  valves)  must  be  
installed  on  a  steam  boiler.  It's  sometimes  
referred  to  by  the  inspector  as  a  safety  valve  
or  safety  relief  valve.  The  pressure-­‐relief  
valve  will  open  up  and  release  excess  steam  
at  or  below  the  maximum  allowable  working  
pressure  of  the  boiler.  On  low-­‐pressure  
boilers  that  you'll  find  in  residential  homes,  
the  pressure-­‐relief  valve  will  likely  be  set  to  
open  and  release  steam  when  a  maximum  
pressure  of  15  psi  is  reached  in  the  boiler.  
The  valve  should  automatically  close  when  the  pressure  falls  back  down  to  normal  
levels  again.  

Steam  Heating  Devices  

Boilers  used  for  steam  heating  systems  have  devices  designed  for  (a)  measuring  or  
indicating,  and  (b)  control.  Steam  boilers  should  have  installed  on  them  the  

• water  level  gauge;  

• low-­‐water  cutoff;  
• pressure  gauge;  
• safety  relief  valve;  and  
• high-­‐pressure  limit  switch.  

A  water  level  gauge  measures  the  boiler's  water  level.  A  low-­‐water  cutoff  device  
automatically  shuts  off  the  burner  if  the  water  level  of  the  boiler  is  too  low.  The  
pressure  gauge  measures  the  operating  pressure  inside  the  boiler.  The  safety  relief  
valve  discharges  excess  steam  when  pressure  inside  the  boiler  exceeds  a  maximum  
safe  working  pressure  on  the  valve.  The  burner  shuts  off  by  the  high-­‐pressure  limit  
switch  when  the  boiler  pressure  exceeds  a  pre-­‐set  level.    


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Two  Types  of  Steam  Heating  Systems    
There  are  basically  two  types  of  steam  heating  systems:  low-­‐pressure  and  high-­‐
pressure.  The  type  depends  upon  the  operating  pressure  of  the  steam  in  the  system.  
Low-­‐pressure  steam  systems  typically  are  set  to  operate  at  a  pressure  of  0  to  15  
psig.  High-­‐pressure  steam  systems  operate  in  excess  of  15  psig.  You'll  usually  find  
low-­‐pressure  steam  systems  installed  a  residential  home.      

Hot-­‐Water  Boilers  
Hot-­‐water  boilers  have  a  variety  of  valves,  controls  and  devices.  Some  are  similar  to  
those  found  on  a  steam  boiler,  but  there  are  significant  differences.  Hot-­‐water  
boilers  operate  under  high  pressures  and  temperatures.    

Inspectors  can  look  for  the  following  devices  installed  on  hot-­‐water  boilers:    

• pressure-­‐relief  valve,  which  relieves  a  boiler  of  excessive  pressure;  

• low-­‐water  cutoff,  which  switches  off  the  burner  if  the  boiler's  water  level  
drops  too  low;  
• high-­‐pressure  limit  switch,  which  turns  off  the  burner  when  the  boiler  
pressure  exceeds  its  pre-­‐set  maximum  safe  operating  level;  
• aquastat,  which  automatically  controls  the  temperature  limits  and  operates  
the  circulator  pump(s);  
• water  pressure-­‐reducing  valve,  which  keeps  the  boiler  filled  with  water;  
• air  vent,  which  releases  air  from  the  system;  
• expansion  tank,  which  takes  the  expanded  volume  of  heated  water  in  the  
• air  separator,  which  traps  air  bubbles  from  the  water  before  it's  circulated  in  
the  system;  and  
• circulator  pump,  which  moves  water  through  the  system.  

Pressure-­‐Relief  Valve  on  Boilers    

Inspectors  should  look  for  a  pressure-­‐relief  valve  that  is  rated  higher  than  the  
maximum  working  pressure  of  the  boiler.  The  boiler  could  explode  if  itexceeds  its  
maximum  working  pressure  with  this  incorrect  valve  installed  on  it.  The  valve  
relieves  pressure  created  by  (a)  water  thermal  conditions,  and  (b)  steam  pressure  
conditions.  Relief  valves  help  prevent  personal  injury  and  property  damage.  These  
valves  open  at  a  set  pressure.  As  the  pressure  drops,  the  valve  closes.  When  the  
water  pressure  reaches  a  certain  point,  the  valve  functions  as  a  water  relief  valve  
and  discharges  water  that  expanded  in  the  system.  This  valve  may  also  relieve  and  
discharge  steam  when  it's  present  inside  the  hot-­‐water  boiler,  which  is  an  indication  
of  a  malfunctioning  firing  control.    

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High-­‐Pressure  Limit  Switch  
This  device  is  used  for  safety  and  will  shut  down  the  burner  when  the  boiler's  
pressure  exceeds  a  pre-­‐set  level  (commonly  5  to  8  psi).  The  high-­‐pressure  limit  
switch  is  connected  to  the  boiler  by  a  pigtail  pipe.    

The  aquastat,  or  high-­‐limit  control,  is  a  safety  
control  that  helps  prevent  damage  to  the  boiler  
by  shutting  it  down.  It  works  with  the  
circulator  pump(s).  It  can  be  strapped  to  the  
hot-­‐water  supply  riser  or  mounted  on  the  
boiler  so  that  its  heat-­‐sensitive  element  is  
immersed  inside  the  boiler.  If  the  pressure  or  
temperature  of  the  hot  water  exceeds  the  
certain  limit  of  the  system,  the  system  shuts  

Pressure-­‐Reducing  Valves  
Most  hot-­‐water  boilers  have  water  pressure-­‐reducing  valves,  which  feed  water  into  
the  boiler  automatically  when  the  pressure  in  the  system  drops.  It  keeps  the  system  
automatically  filled  with  water.  It's  installed  on  the  cold-­‐water  supply  line.  Older  
systems  may  have  a  manually  operated  feed  valve.  Water-­‐pressure-­‐reducing  valves  
are  usually  set  to  feed  water  to  the  boiler  at  about  15  pounds  of  pressure,  which  is  
usually  sufficient  for  a  house  no  more  than  three  stories  high.  Combination  valves  
(or  dual-­‐control  valves)  are  installed  on  hot-­‐water  boilers,  and  they  combine  a  
pressure-­‐reducing/pressure-­‐regulating  valve  and  a  positive  relief  valve  in  one  
device.  This  combination  valve  can  regulate  pressure,  control  safety,  reduce  boiler  
pressure,  and  auto-­‐fill  the  boiler.  If  the  expansion  is  waterlogged  or  has  a  problem  
with  expanding  water,  the  relief  valve  will  open  at  23  psi  to  drop  the  pressure  back  
down,  and  will  open  when  the  pressure  drops  below  14  psi.    


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Low-­‐Water  Cutoff  on  Boilers  
A  low-­‐water  cutoff  must  be  installed  on  boilers.  This  device  shuts  off  the  burner  
when  the  water  level  in  the  boiler  drops  to  a  level  too  low  for  safe  operation.  Two  
types  of  low-­‐water  cutoff  devices  are  float  and  probe.  All  residential  steam  boilers  
must  have  a  low-­‐water  cutoff  device  installed.    

Blowdown  Valve  on  Boilers    

A  blowdown  valve  is  used  to  remove  sediment  and  contaminants  in  the  water  of  the  
boiler,  near  the  low  point  of  the  bottom  of  the  boiler.  Over  time,  these  sediments  and  
contaminants  in  the  water  of  the  boiler  will  settle  there.    The  blowdown  valve  
should  be  opened  to  drain  off  the  sediments  as  part  of  a  regular  maintenance  

Quiz  7  
T/F:  Air  is  the  heat-­‐conveying  medium  for  hydronic  heating  systems.  

• False  
• True  

One  cubic  foot  of  water  at  68°  F  weighs  about  ____  pounds.  

• 62  
• 26  
• 47  

T/F:  Radiators  and  baseboard  convectors  are  considered  heat-­‐emitting  components.  

• True  
• False  

Section  17:  Steam-­‐Heating  Systems  

Steam-­‐Heating  Systems  
Steam  can  be  used  as  a  heat-­‐conveying  medium.    Steam-­‐heating  systems  are  not  
commonly  found  in  modern  residential  homes.    You  may  find  that  the  steam  systems  
in  small  commercial  buildings  have  been  replaced  by  other  types  of  heating  systems  
that  operate  more  efficiently  and  inexpensively.  

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In  a  steam-­‐heating  system,  the  boiler  turns  water  into  steam.    The  steam  rises  
through  pipes  to  the  heat-­‐emitting  units.    Inside  the  units,  the  steam  cools  and  
condenses  into  water.    The  condensate  water  returns  to  the  boiler  and  the  cycle  
begins  again.  
Identifying  and  Describing  Steam-­‐Heating  Systems  
There  are  a  few  ways  to  identify  and  describe  a  steam-­‐heating  system.    The  
description  of  a  steam-­‐heating  system  may  include  the  following:  
• the  pressure  and  vacuum  conditions  (low  or  high);  
• how  the  condensate  water  returns  to  the  boiler  (gravity  or  mechanical);  
• the  piping  (one-­‐pipe  or  two-­‐pipe);  
• type  of  piping  circuit  (divided,  one-­‐pipe,  or  loop);  
• the  direction  of  steam  in  the  risers  (upfeed  or  downfeed);  and  
• the  location  of  the  condensate  returns  (dry  return  or  wet  return).  
Gravity  Steam-­‐Heating  Systems  
The  distinguishing  characteristic  of  a  gravity  steam-­‐heating  system  is  that  the  
condensate  returns  to  the  boiler  from  the  heat-­‐emitting  units  by  gravity  rather  
than  by  some  mechanical  means.    
One-­‐Pipe  Gravity  Steam  
In  a  one-­‐pipe  steam-­‐heating  system,  the  steam  is  carried  around  the  lowest  level  of  
the  building  -­‐-­‐  typically,  a  basement.    From  that  main  circuit,  branches  to  each  
individual  heat-­‐emitting  unit  are  taken  off.    In  a  one-­‐pipe  system,  the  condensate  
returns  to  the  boiler  through  the  main  steam  supply  pipe.    Both  steam  and  
condensate  are  in  that  pipe.    The  main  is  sloped  back  toward  the  boiler.    The  pipe  is  
sloped  from  the  immediate  high  point  located  near  and  above  the  boiler  to  the  
bottom  of  the  boiler,  usually  entering  the  side  of  the  boiler.    
Two-­‐Pipe  Gravity  Steam  
In  a  two-­‐pipe  system,  the  steam  and  the  condensate  are  separated  in  two  different  
pipes.    Steam  comes  from  the  boiler,  rises  up  through  the  supply  pipes,  heat  is    

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emitted,  steam  is  condensed  in  the  heat-­‐emitting  units,  and  the  condensate  water  
returns  back  through  return  pipes  to  the  boiler.  
Steam  Boilers  
A  steam  boiler  heats  water  until  it  boils  and  changes  into  steam.    A  steam  boiler  can  
run  on  various  types  of  fuels.    Steam  comes  from  the  boiler,  rises  up  through  pipes,  
and  enters  the  heat-­‐emitting  units.    The  design  and  construction  of  a  steam  boiler  is  
very  similar  to  a  boiler  for  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system.    
Control  Components  
The  control  components  for  a  steam  boiler  are  similar  to  those  used  in  a  hot-­‐water  
heating  system.    The  controls  for  a  steam  boiler  include:  
• safety  valve;  
• steam  pressure  gauge;  
• low-­‐water  cutoff;  
• water-­‐fill  feeder;  
• pressure  high-­‐limit  control;  
• water  gauge  glass;  and  
• primary  control.  
Hartford  Return  
A  steam-­‐heating  system  should  have  a  Hartford  return  connection,  often  referred  to  
as  a  Hartford  loop.    The  Hartford  return  is  installed  on  the  condensate  return  line.    It  
prevents  total  loss  of  water  from  the  boiler  if  there  is  a  water  leak  in  the  return  line.    
An  equalizer  connects  the  lower  outlet  to  the  steam  outlet.    The  Hartford  return  is  
connected  to  the  equalizer  about  2  inches  below  the  normal  water  level  of  the  steam  
Steam  Traps  
A  steam  trap  is  a  device  installed  on  a  steam  line  that  controls  the  flow  of  steam,  air  
and  condensate.    It  automatically  opens  and  discharges  air  and  condensation.    It  will  
automatically  close  to  stop  steam  from  escaping.    
Pumps  are  used  on  steam  heating  systems  to  handle  condensate  and  to  discharge  
excess  air.  

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Heat-­‐Emitting  Units  for  Steam-­‐Heating  Systems  
There  are  two  types  of  heat-­‐emitting  units  used  in  steam-­‐heating  systems:    radiators  
and  convectors.    A  radiator  primarily  uses  radiation  to  transmit  heat.    A  convector  
primarily  uses  convection  to  transmit  heat.    A  convector  is  usually  made  of  a  tube  
with  fins  attached.    
Unit  Heaters  
A  unit  heater  (sometimes  called  a  space  heater)  is  essentially  a  convector  with  a  
fan.    The  fan  forces  air  over  the  heating  surface.    The  warm  air  is  discharged  into  the  
room  or  space.    
Water  Hammer  
"Water  hammer"  is  a  problem  in  a  steam-­‐heating  system  that  occurs  
when  condensed  water  is  trapped  in  a  section  of  a  horizontal  steam  pipe.    The  steam  
pipes  should  be  sloped  properly.    Steam  bubbles  may  get  trapped  in  the  return  lines  
and  then  the  bubbles  will  start  imploding  in  the  water-­‐filled  wet  return  lines,  
causing  the  noise  known  as  water  hammer.    Properly  sized  gravity  return  lines  are  
needed  to  allow  sufficient  room  for  the  steam  to  flow  in  the  top  of  the  pipe  without  
mixing  with  the  condensate  flowing  on  the  bottom  of  the  pipe.  

Section  18:  Electric  Heating  Systems  

Electric  Heating  Systems  
There  are  various  types  of  electric  heating  systems.    They  all  use  electricity  to  
transfer  heat  by  the  following  three  ways:  
• radiation;  
• convection;  and  
• forced  air.  

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Electric  Hot  Water  Systems  
An  electric  boiler  may  be  used  as  a  home's  main  heat  source.    Electric  boilers  are  
compact  and  insulated,  with  heating  elements  immersed  in  the  water  of  the  
boiler.    Inside  the  compact  electric  boiler  unit  are  all  of  the  components,  including  
the  expansion  tank,  pump,  valves  and  controls.    
Electric  Forced  Warm-­‐Air  Heating  Systems  
At  an  electric  forced  warm-­‐air  heating  system,  heated  air  is  forced  through  to  the  
rooms  and  spaces  of  the  building  by  the  use  of  a  blower  fan  and  ducts  or  pipes.    They  
have  zero  clearances.    They  can  be  installed  horizontally  or  vertically.    Inside  the  
electric  furnace  is  at  least  one  coiled  resistance-­‐wire  heating  element.    If  there  is  
more  than  one  coil,  the  coils  are  activated  sequentially,  one  by  one,  to  prevent  an  
electrical  current  overload.    There  is  a  high-­‐temperature  control  installed  in  the  
unit.    The  furnace  is  controlled  by  a  thermostat.    A  blower  fan  is  installed  to  force  air  
through  the  heating  elements.  
Electrical  Radiant  Heating  Systems  
A  common  type  of  electrical  radiant  heating  system  is  one  that  has  a  cable  
embedded  in  the  floor,  wall  or  ceiling.    The  heat  that  is  created  by  the  cable  is  
transferred  to  the  occupants  and  surfaces  in  the  room  by  low-­‐intensity  radiation.    
There  are  three  types  of  radiant  panel  systems:  
• radiant  floor  panel  systems;  
• radiant  wall  panel  systems;  and  
• radiant  ceiling  panel  systems.  
Electric  Baseboard  Heating  Systems  
Electric  baseboard  heating  units  are  usually  installed  at  floor  level  at  the  perimeter  
of  each  room  or  space  of  the  building,  particularly  below  windows.    An  electric  
baseboard  is  made  of  a  heating  element  protected  by  a  thin  metal  housing.    Heat  is  
transferred  into  the  room  primarily  by  means  of  convection,  although  some  
radiation  is  involved.    A  thermostat  may  be  mounted  on  a  wall  or  built  into  the  
unit.    Air  moves  across  the  electric  baseboard  and  heat  is  transferred  from  the  
heating  element  to  the  air.    Electric  baseboard  heating  systems  are  the  most  
commonly  used  type  of  electric  heating.    
Heat  Pumps  
A  heat  pump  is  an  electrically  powered  system  that  has  a  reversible-­‐cycle  
refrigeration  system  that  is  capable  of  both  heating  and  cooling  the  interior  air  of  a  

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building.    The  heat  source  is  either  air  (as  in  air-­‐to-­‐air  heat  pump  systems)  or  water  
(as  in  water-­‐to-­‐air  heat  pump  systems).    The  most  common  type  for  residential  
installations  is  the  air-­‐to-­‐air  heat  pump  system.  

Section  19:  Steam  and  Hot-­‐Water  Space  

Heating  Boilers  
Steam  and  Hot-­‐Water  Space  Heating  Systems  
Boilers  supply  hot  water  or  steam  to  heat  buildings.    The  boilers  that  we  see  in  
residences  are  low-­‐pressure  steam  and  hot-­‐water  (hydronic)  space  heating  
boilers.    These  boilers  are  fired  up  with  fossil  fuels.    They  have  an  insulated  steel  
jacket  on  the  outside,  a  lower  chamber  where  combustion  takes  place,  and  an  upper  
chamber  where  the  heat  exchanger  is  located.    That  is  where  the  water  is  heated  or  
turned  into  steam.    The  steam  or  hot  water  is  then  circulated  throughout  the  
building  through  distribution  boiler  pipes.  

Steam  boilers  are  not  completely  full  of  water.    They  are  only  about  75%  full.    A  hot-­‐
water  boiler  is  completely  filled  with  water.  

Steam  boilers  run  at  about  2  psi.    Hot-­‐water  boilers  operate  at  about  12  to  15  psi.    

All  steam  boilers  are  required  to  have  a  low-­‐water  cutoff  device.    Hot-­‐water  boilers  
are  usually  not  required  to  have  this.  

Steam  boilers  require  fresh  water  to  be  added  to  the  system  at  regular  intervals  
because  steam  boilers  lose  water  due  to  evaporation  and  steam.    Hot-­‐water  boilers  
typically  do  not  require  the  regular  addition  of  fresh  water  to  the  system.  

The  construction  and  design  of  steam  and  hot-­‐water  boilers  are  similar.    The  
combustion  chamber  differs  for  each  type  of  boiler  with  the  different  types  of  fuel  
that  the  boiler  is  designed  to  burn.    Oil  boilers  have  oil  burners  that  are  mounted  on  
the  outside  of  the  combustion  chamber.    Gas  boilers  have  gas  burner  assemblies  that  
are  located  inside  the  combustion  chamber.    


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The  upper  chamber  of  a  boiler  contains  cast-­‐iron  sections  or  steel  tubes.    Water  is  
inside  the  cast-­‐iron  section  or  steel  tubes.    This  water  gets  heated  by  the  combustion  
taking  place  below  in  the  lower  chamber  (the  combustion  chamber).    The  heat  from  
the  combustion  taking  place  in  the  lower  chamber  is  transferred  to  the  cast-­‐iron  
sections  or  steel  tubes  that  contain  water  and  to  the  water  inside.    In  a  hot-­‐water  
boiler,  the  water  completely  fills  the  cast-­‐iron  sections  or  steel  tubes.    In  a  steam  
boiler,  only  the  lower  two-­‐thirds  are  filled  with  water.    

In  a  steam  boiler,  water  is  heated  rapidly  to  the  point  when  steam  is  created.    That  
hot  steam  rises  up  through  the  distribution  pipes  and  supplies  heat  to  the  building.  

Boiler  Efficiency  
Boiler  efficiency  is  based  on  several  factors,  including  the  type  of  fuel  used,  the  
method  of  firing,  and  the  control  settings.    The  efficiency  rating  of  a  boiler  is  
measured  by  its  annual  fuel  utilization  efficiency  (AFUE).    The  minimum  established  
by  the  U.S.  government  for  boilers  is  78%.    Mid-­‐efficiency  boilers  have  a  range  of  78  
to  82%.    High-­‐efficiency  (condensing)  boilers  range  from  88  to  97%.    Conventional  
(non-­‐condensing)  steam  and  hot-­‐water  space  heating  boilers  have  AFUE  ranges  of  
around  60  to  65%.    


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Describing  Boilers  
Low-­‐pressure  boilers  and  hot-­‐water  space  heaters  can  be  identified  and  described  
in  variety  of  ways.    Such  boilers  can  be  categorized  by:  

• cast  iron  or  steel;  

• type  of  exchanger;  
• type  of  fuel  used;  and  
• one  or  two  pipes.  

Most  boilers  are  made  of  cast  iron  or  steel.    A  few  are  made  of  aluminum.    Cast-­‐iron  
boilers  typically  last  longer  because  cast  iron  resists  corrosion  better  than  
steel.    The  heat  exchanger  of  many  boilers  is  made  up  of  sections  of  cast-­‐iron  pieces  
that  are  joined  together  either  in  layers  horizontally  (“sandwiched”  or  “pancaked”  
together)  or  vertically  joined  together,  like  a  tight  stack  of  dominos.    The  water  
moves  from  section  to  section  in  a  zigzag  pattern  and  gets  heated.    

In  boilers  with  a  tubular  heat  exchanger,  the  water  either  circulates  within  the  tubes  
and  gets  heated  by  the  combustion  gases,  or  the  water  circulates  around  the  tubes  
that  contain  the  hot  combustion  gases.  

A  hot-­‐water  copper-­‐fin  tube  operates  slightly  differently  than  cast-­‐iron  and  steel  
boilers.    Water  flows  across  the  fins  and  gets  heated  very  quickly.  

Boilers  can  be  fired  by  various  fuels,  including  electricity.    The  most  common  boilers  
tend  to  be  gas-­‐fired  or  oil-­‐fired.  

Steam  Boiler  Valves  and  Controls  

Boilers  used  for  steam  heat  have  a  variety  of  valves  and  controls.    They  can  be  
divided  in  two  broad  categories:  

• safety  and  measurement;  and  

• controlling.  


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Steam  boilers  may  have  the  following  components  installed  on  them:  

• a  water-­‐level  gauge,  which  measures  the  water  level  in  the  boiler;  
• a  low-­‐water  cutoff,  which  is  a  device  that  turns  the  boiler  off  if  the  water  
level  gets  too  low;  
• a  pressure  gauge,  which  measures  the  operating  pressure  inside  the  boiler;  
• a  pressure-­‐relief  valve,  which  discharges  excess  steam  when  the  pressure  in  
the  boiler  exceeds  a  pre-­‐set  limit;  and  
• a  high-­‐pressure  limit  switch,  which  shuts  off  the  burner  when  the  boiler  
reaches  a  high-­‐pressure  limit.  


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Pressure/Safety-­‐Relief  Valves  
On  a  low-­‐pressure  boiler  that  you  may  find  in  a  home,  the  pressure-­‐relief  valve  is  set  
to  open  at  a  pressure  of  15  psi.    The  pressure-­‐relief  valve  should  not  be  rated  higher  
than  15  psi.    The  pressure  valve  should  not  have  a  rating  higher  than  the  maximum  
working  pressure  of  the  boiler.    You  don’t  want  the  boiler  to  rupture  under  high  
pressure;  you  want  the  valve  to  activate  before  that  happens.  


Pressure-­‐relief  valves  that  are  installed  on  hot-­‐water  heating  boilers  will  open  
under  two  conditions:  

• water  thermal  conditions;  and  

• steam-­‐pressure  conditions.  


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These  relief  valves  are  used  to  protect  against  damage  to  property  and  injury  to  
people.    These  relief  valves  will  start  to  open  up  at  a  set  pressure  and  will  open  fully  
at  a  maximum  pressure.    

If  temperature  limits  are  reached  in  the  boiler,  the  valve  will  start  to  open.    If  
pressure  in  the  boiler  reaches  a  limit,  the  valve  opens  as  a  water-­‐relief  valve  
discharges  a  small  amount  of  water  that  has  expanded  inside  the  boiler.  

If  both  water  and  steam  are  present  in  a  hot-­‐water  boiler,  there  is  a  problem  with  
the  boiler.    The  boiler  is  reaching  steam-­‐forming  temperatures  and  steam  pressure  
is  being  created.    The  relief  valve  will  open  under  this  steam-­‐pressure  condition.    It  
acts  as  a  steam-­‐pressure  relief  valve  under  this  condition  in  the  boiler.  

These  safety-­‐relief  valves  open  under  excessive  water  pressure  conditions  and  
under  excessive  steam  pressure  conditions.  

Pressure-­‐Reducing  Valves  
Pressure-­‐reducing  valves  are  sometimes  referred  to  as  boiler  feed  valves.    Pressure-­‐
reducing  valves  are  designed  to  fill  a  hot-­‐water  boiler  automatically  if  the  pressure  
in  the  system  drops  below  the  setting  of  the  valve.    Its  primary  function  is  to  keep  
the  system  automatically  filled  with  water  at  the  desired  operating  pressure.    Older  
systems  have  valves  that  are  operated  manually.    The  valve  is  usually  installed  on  
the  cold-­‐water  supply  line.    

Combination  Valves  
Combination  valves  are  used  in  hot-­‐water  boiler  systems.    They  combine  a  pressure-­‐
reducing  valve  and  a  relief  valve  in  one  device.    They  provide  pressure  regulation  
and  automatic  filling  of  water  under  certain  conditions.        

Blowdown  Valve  
Sediments  will  settle  at  the  bottom  of  the  boiler.    Sediments  can  be  removed  by  
using  a  blowdown  valve.    The  valve  is  installed  at  the  bottom  of  the  boiler.    The  
blowdown  valve  should  be  operated  periodically  to  drain  the  sediments  from  the  

Water  Gauges  
A  water  gauge  is  used  to  visually  check  the  level  of  the  water  in  the  boiler.    The  
water  level  should  be  somewhere  between  60  to  75%  full.    A  safe  operating  level  of  
water  varies  slightly  among  different  manufacturers  of  boilers.    If  the  water  level  
appears  to  be  low  or  empty,  then  do  not  operate  the  boiler.    Turn  it  off,  and  

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recommend  that  it  be  serviced,  including  re-­‐filling  the  water,  using  caution.    Adding  
water  to  a  hot  boiler  could  cause  damage.      

Backflow  Preventer  
The  unwanted  mixing  of  the  water  supply  to  the  boiler  and  the  domestic  water  
supply  to  the  house  is  prevented  with  a  backflow  preventer.  

Circulating  Pumps  
Circulating  pumps  are  used  to  circulate  hot  water  in  a  hydronic  forced  hot-­‐water  
heating  system.    They  push  the  water  through  the  piping  system.    The  pump  should  
be  placed  in  the  correct  position  on  the  heating  system  in  order  to  be  
effective.    Manufacturers  usually  describe  the  proper  location  of  the  pump  in  the  
installation  manual.    


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Hartford  Return  
A  steam  heating  system  should  have  a  Hartford  return  connection,  often  referred  to  
as  a  Hartford  loop.    The  Hartford  return  is  installed  on  the  condensate  return  line.    It  
prevents  total  loss  of  water  from  the  boiler  if  there  is  a  water  leak  in  the  return  line.    

An  equalizer  connects  the  lower  outlet  to  the  steam  outlet.    The  Hartford  return  is  
connected  to  the  equalizer  about  2  inches  below  the  normal  water  level  of  the  steam  

Air  Separator  
An  air  separator  traps  and  removes  air  bubbles  from  the  water  in  the  boiler  
system.    When  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system  is  filled  with  cold  water,  the  water  
contains  some  air.    Air  bubbles  are  created  when  the  water  heats  up  and  moves  
rapidly  through  the  pipes  and  radiators.    The  bubbles  make  noise  when  they  pass  
through  these  components.    Sometimes  a  radiator  will  not  heat  up  because  there  is  a  
lot  of  air  trapped  inside  it.    An  air  separator  is  designed  to  remove  those  air  bubbles  
from  the  system.    

Some  boilers  have  air  separators  designed  into  them.    The  air  is  trapped,  separated,  
and  diverted  to  an  automatic  air  vent  at  the  top  of  the  boiler’s  separator.    Sometimes  
the  air  is  diverted  into  the  expansion  tank  above  the  boiler.      

Expansion  Tanks  
A  hot-­‐water  heating  system  has  an  expansion  tank  installed  on  it.    There  are  two  
types  of  tanks:  

• steel  tanks;  and    

• diaphragm  tanks.  

The  primary  function  of  the  expansion  tank  in  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system  is  to  
provide  a  space  for  the  expanding  water  to  move  into.    When  the  water  in  the  
system  is  heated,  its  volume  may  increase  by  as  much  as  5%.    Tanks  limit  increases  
in  pressure  to  the  allowable  operating/working  pressure  of  the  system.  They  also  
maintain  minimum  operating  pressures.    

The  maximum  pressure  in  the  boiler  system  is  maintained  by  the  pressure-­‐relief  
valve.    Minimum  pressure  is  maintained  by  a  water-­‐fill  valve.    

In  residential  installations,  closed  steel  tanks  and  diaphragm  tanks  are  used  to  
control  the  expansion  of  heated  water  inside  a  hot-­‐water  heating  system.  

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 Closed  Steel  Tanks  
The  closed  steel  tank  has  no  diaphragm  and  no  moving  parts.    It  is  simply  filled  with  
water  (about  one-­‐third)  and  air  (about  two-­‐thirds).    When  the  boiler  heats  up  the  
water,  the  water  expands  and  enters  the  tank.    As  the  water  enters  the  tank,  the  air  
inside  the  tank  gets  compressed.    The  compression  of  the  air  inside  the  tank  results  
in  an  increase  of  system  pressure.    That  pressure  can  be  measured  at  the  pressure  
gauge  of  the  boiler.  


When  the  water  cools  down,  the  water  in  the  system  contracts,  and  the  water  in  the  
tank  releases  back  into  the  system.    The  rise  and  fall  of  pressure  in  the  system  are  
related  to  the  expansion  and  contraction  of  the  air  in  the  expansion  tank.  


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Diaphragm  Expansion  Tanks  
Inside  a  diaphragm  expansion  tank,  there  is  a  flexible  rubber  membrane.  The  
function  of  this  membrane  is  to  prevent  air  from  becoming  absorbed  into  the  water,  
a  process  that  could  cause  the  expansion  tank  to  lose  its  ability  to  act  as  a  sort  of  
shock  absorber.    Over  time,  if  the  bladder  begins  to  leak  some  air,  a  Schrader  valve,  
identical  to  the  fill  valve  found  on  bicycle  and  car  tires,  can  be  used  to  add  more  air.  

A  diaphragm  tank  is  much  smaller  than  a  closed  steel  tank.    Most  of  them  come  from  
the  manufacturer  pre-­‐charged  at  12  psi.  


A  diaphragm  tank  that  is  waterlogged  will  cause  the  boiler  pressure  to  reach  
excessive  levels.    Under  this  condition,  the  relief  valve  will  likely  begin  to  drip  
water.    A  general  rule  of  thumb  for  the  size  of  an  expansion  tank  is  that  there  should  
be  1  gallon  for  every  3,500  BTU  of  radiation  at  heat-­‐emitting  units.    

Water-­‐Tempering  Valves  
Water-­‐tempering  valves  are  used  at  hot-­‐water  heating  systems  that  heat  domestic  
hot  water  at  the  boiler.    The  water-­‐tempering  valve  mixes  hot  and  cold  water  to  the  
desired,  safe  temperature,  thus  preventing  scalding  at  the  fixtures.    Without  a  water-­‐
tempering  valve,  the  scalding  hot  water  that  is  produced  at  the  boiler  would  be  

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supplied  directly  from  the  boiler  to  the  fixtures.    These  valves  are  installed  at  
tankless  heaters,  boiler  coils,  water  heaters,  and  space-­‐heating  systems.  

Balancing  Valve  
A  balancing  valve  is  used  to  balance  a  heating  system.    It  can  also  be  used  to  
determine  how  much  water  is  flowing  through  the  valve.    

Section  20:  Air  Conditioning  

Air  Conditioning    
Air  conditioning  is  not  simply  the  
cooling  of  air.    Air  conditioning  involves  
many  aspects  of  conditioning  or  
changing  the  air  in  whatever  way  in  
order  to  make  the  living  environment  
for  the  occupants  of  a  building  
comfortable.    This  may  include  warming  
the  air,  cooling  the  air,  adding  moisture,  
dehumidifying  the  air,  filtering  the  air,  
and  maintaining  a  balanced  distribution  
or  circulation  of  the  air.    

Air  conditioning  includes:  

• heating;  
• cooling;  
• humidification;  
• dehumidification;  
• cleaning  and  filtering;  
• air  movement  and  circulation;  and  
• humidity.  

Humidity  refers  to  the  water  vapor  or  moisture  content  in  the  air.    Water  vapor  is    

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actually  steam  at  low  temperatures  and  low  pressures.    Air  can  carry  water  vapor,  
depending  on  its  temperature.    When  air  absorbs  moisture  (when  it  is  humidified),  
the  latent  heat  of  evaporation  must  be  supplied  from  the  air  or  by  something  
else.    When  moisture  from  the  air  is  condensed,  the  latent  heat  of  condensation  is  
recovered.    Air  is  referred  to  as  saturated  when  it  is  carrying  the  maximum  water  
vapor  that  it  can  hold.    

Humidification  is  the  addition  of  moisture  to  the  air.    A  humidifier  is  a  device  that  
adds  moisture  to  the  air.    

Dehumidification  is  the  removal  of  moisture  from  the  air.    A  dehumidifier  is  a  device  
that  removes  moisture  from  the  air.    Dehumidifying  is  accomplished  by  
condensation,  which  takes  place  when  the  temperature  of  the  air  is  lowered  below  
its  dew  point.      

The  Dew  Point  

The  dew  point  is  the  temperature  of  saturation  at  a  certain  atmospheric  
pressure.    For  a  given  atmospheric  pressure,  the  dew  point  is  the  temperature  at  
which  moisture  condenses  into  water  droplets  or  dew.    A  reduction  in  temperature  
below  the  dew  point  will  cause  condensation  of  some  of  the  water  vapor.    With  the  
formation  of  condensate,  there  will  be  a  release  of  some  latent  heat  of  the  vapor,  
which  will  have  to  be  absorbed  and  taken  away  before  any  more  condensation  can  
take  place.  

Compression  and  Cooling  

Compression  can  be  used  to  cool  the  air  that  is  being  conditioned.    The  refrigerant  
gas  in  the  air  conditioner  coils  is  being  compressed.    When  the  gas  expands  and  
contracts,  cool  temperatures  are  produced.    Simply  put,  when  you  increase  pressure  
on  a  gas,  the  temperature  increases.    

Rule  of  Thumb  for  Sizing  Air  Conditioners  

The  problem  with  using  a  "rule  of  thumb"  is  that  it  is  inherently  imprecise.    The  idea  
is  to  estimate  the  size  of  an  air-­‐conditioning  unit.    The  rule  is  1  ton  of  refrigeration  
for  each  500  to  700  square  feet  of  floor  area  in  the  building.    A  ton  of  refrigeration  is  
equivalent  to  12,000  BTU  per  hour.    

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Determining  the  size  of  an  air-­‐conditioner  system  can  be  difficult.    It  can  be  done  by  
reading  the  model  number  on  the  data  plate  of  the  outdoor  condenser  
unit.    The  Carrier  Blue  Book  is  a  great  resource  that  has  model  numbers,  serial  
numbers,  and  efficiency  ratings.    

The  size  can  be  approximated  by  looking  at  the  RLA  (rated  load  amperage)  
number.    A  compressor  may  be  rated  at  6  to  8  amps  per  ton  of  cooling.    Modern  
compressors  may  draw  about  5  amps.    Take  the  RLA  amp  number  and  divide  it  by  6  
to  8  (or  5,  if  the  compressor  is  a  newer  model).    That  result  will  be  a  good  guess  of  
the  proper  tonnage.    

The  size  can  be  approximated  by  looking  at  the  model  number,  finding  the  middle  
number,  and  dividing  it  by  12.    The  result  is  the  tonnage.    

Be  careful  when  guessing  the  size  of  the  air  conditioner.    You  will  probably  be  

Cooling  Methods  
There  are  several  ways  to  supply  cool  air  to  a  building.    Air  conditioning  can  be  
achieved  by  the  following  methods:  

• evaporative  cooling;  
• cold-­‐water  cooling;  
• gas-­‐compression  refrigeration;  
• gas-­‐absorption  refrigeration;  
• thermo-­‐electric  refrigeration;  and  
• cooling  with  steam.  

The  most  common  type  of  air  conditioning  system  in  most  homes  is  referred  to  as  a  
direct  expansion,  mechanical,  gas-­‐compression  (or  vapor-­‐compression)  
refrigeration  system.    This  system  consists  of  an  indoor  coil  (evaporator  coil),  
outdoor  coil  (condenser),  and  a  pump  (compressor).    

A  typical  type  of  air-­‐conditioning  system  installation  is  a  split  system  whose  
compressor  and  air-­‐cooled  condenser  unit  are  located  outside,  and  the  evaporator  
coil,  fan  and  heating  system  are  located  inside  the  building.    The  evaporator  and    


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condenser  coils  are  typically  made  of  copper  tubing  with  aluminum  fins.  



Evaporative  Cooling  
An  evaporative  cooler  (or  swamp  cooler)  cools  the  indoor  air  using  evaporation.    It  
lowers  the  dry-­‐bulb  temperature  of  the  indoor  air.    

The  major  components  of  an  evaporative  cooler  are  the:  

• cabinet;  
• water  pump;  
• blower  and  motor;  
• media  or  water  pads;  and  
• pump.  

When  the  blower  fan  turns  on,  it  draws  air  from  outside.    The  air  passes  over  the  
wet  pads  and  blows  into  the  interior.    The  water  in  the  pads  absorbs  the  heat  from  
the  air  as  it  passes  through  them.    This  causes  some  evaporation  of  the  water,  and  
the  temperature  of  the  air  is  lowered.    It  is  this  creation  of  a  low  dry-­‐bulb  
temperature  that  produces  the  cooling  effect.    

Evaporative  coolers  should  not  be  installed  where  there  is  high  humidity.    They  are  
used  in  dry  climates  very  well.    They  are  often  mounted  on  top  of  a  roof,  but  they  

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can  be  inserted  in  a  window  opening  or  sidewall  of  a  building,  as  well.    Maintenance  
involves  keeping  the  unit  clean  by  cleaning  or  replacing  the  water  pads,  and  
cleaning  the  water  sump  tray  and  fan.    

Gas-­‐Compression  Cooling  
Gas-­‐compression  cooling  involves  the  compression  and  expansion  of  refrigerant  gas  
and  the  transfer  of  heat.    Heat  is  removed  from  the  interior  air  and  is  released  
outside.    Heat  is  simply  transferred  from  one  place  to  another.    

A  gas-­‐compression  cooling  system  consists  of  the  following  components:  

• the  compressor;  
• the  condenser  coil;  
• the  expansion  device;  
• the  evaporator  coil;  and  
• fans.  


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The  compressor  acts  as  a  pump  and  pushes  the  liquid  refrigerant  through  the  liquid  
line  to  the  expansion  device.    The  liquid  refrigerant  is  under  high  pressure  in  the  
liquid  line.    The  expansion  device  is  located  at  the  evaporative  coil.    

The  expansion  device  controls  the  flow  of  refrigerant  into  the  evaporator  coil.    The  
device  can  be  an  expansion  valve  or  a  capillary  tube.    

As  the  high-­‐pressure  liquid  refrigerant  is  forced  through  the  expansion  device,  it  
expands  into  a  larger  volume  in  the  evaporator  coil.    When  it  expands,  its  pressure  is  
reduced  and  its  boiling  temperature  is  lowered.    Under  this  low  pressure,  the  liquid  
refrigerant  boils  until  it  becomes  a  vapor.    During  this  change  of  state,  the  
refrigerant  absorbs  heat  from  the  warm  indoor  air  flowing  across  the  evaporator  

After  the  refrigerant  has  boiled  or  vaporized,  the  vapor  moves  out  of  the  coil  to  the  
outdoor  condenser  unit  through  the  suction  line  and  enters  the  compressor.    The  
compressor  compresses  the  refrigerant  vapor,  increasing  its  temperature  and  
pressure.    The  compressor  pushes  the  vapor  along  the  condenser.    

At  the  condenser,  the  hot  vapor  is  cooled.    It  is  cooled  by  the  outdoor  air  being  
blown  through  the  coils  of  the  condenser.    When  the  air  passes  through  the  coils,  it  
absorbs  some  of  the  refrigerant  heat.    The  heat  is  transferred  from  the  refrigerant  in  
the  coil  to  the  air  passing  through.  

The  temperature  of  the  air  blowing  out  of  the  condenser  increases,  and  the  
temperature  of  the  refrigerant  vapor  decreases  until  the  vapor  is  cooled  to  its  
saturation  point.    At  that  point,  the  vapor  condenses  into  a  liquid.    

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This  refrigerant  liquid  is  still  under  high-­‐pressure.    It  is  pushed  to  the  expansion  
device  (valve  or  tube)  and  the  cycle  continues.    

Cold  is  never  created  in  this  type  of  air-­‐conditioning  system.    Instead,  heat  is  
transferred  from  one  place  to  another.    Heat  is  absorbed  from  the  interior  air,  
moved  outside,  and  released  to  the  outdoor  air.    When  heat  is  absorbed  from  the  
interior  air,  the  air  temperature  is  cooled.    

Air  Temperature  Drop  

When  an  air  conditioner  is  running,  the  house  air  may  have  a  temperature  drop  of  
around  14°  to  22°  as  the  air  moves  across  the  evaporator  coil.    If  you  measure  the  
temperature  in  the  return  duct  at  80°  F,  the  air  temperature  in  the  supply  plenum  
would  be  around  58°  F  to  66°  F.    You  may  sense  the  temperature  drop  with  your  
hand  placed  on  the  duct.      

Efficiency  Ratings  
The  efficiency  of  cooling  systems  in  a  residential  installation  is  expressed  in  terms  of  
its  seasonal  energy  efficiency  ratio,  or  SEER.    New  air  conditioners  manufactured  
today  must  have  a  SEER  rating  of  13  or  higher.  

In  January  2006,  a  U.S.  government  mandate  required  that  manufacturers  of  heat  
pumps  and  air-­‐conditioning  systems  could  no  longer  make  equipment  with  a  SEER  
of  less  than  13.    This  30%  increase  in  minimum  efficiency  (from  10  SEER  to  13  
SEER)  could  result  in  energy  savings  of  up  to  23%  compared  to  most  central  air-­‐
conditioning  systems  rated  at  10  SEER.  

If  the  air-­‐conditioner  system  that  you  inspect  is  at  least  10  years  old,  it  could  have  
SEER  rating  as  low  as  8.    However,  homeowners  are  not  required  to  replace  their  
existing  unit  if  it  is  less  than  13  SEER.  

Central  Air  Conditioner  or  Heat-­‐Pump  Cooling  Efficiency  (SEER)  

Based  on  Year  of  Manufacture:  

• 1970  and  earlier:    SEER  =  6  

• 1971  to  1996:  SEER  =  9.5  
• 1997  to  2002:    SEER  =  10.75  
• 2003  to  2007:    SEER  =  11.2  
• 2008  and  later:    SEER  =  13  

Heat-­‐Pump  Heating  Efficiency  (HSPF):  

• 1970  and  earlier:    HSPF  =  5  

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• 1971  to  2007:    HSPF  =  5.5  
• 2008  and  later:    HSPF  =  7.7  

Room  (Window)  Air-­‐Conditioner  Cooling  Efficiency  (EER):  

• 1972  and  earlier:    EER  =  6  

• 1973  to  1994:    EER  =  6  
• 1995  to  1998:    EER  =  9  
• 1999  to  2001:  EER  =  9  
• 2002  and  later:    EER  =  9.75  


A  compressor  is  a  pump.    It  is  located  inside  the  outdoor  condenser  unit.    It  receives    

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the  low-­‐pressure  refrigerant  vapor  through  the  suction  line,  and  compresses  or  
squeezes  it  into  a  smaller  volume  at  a  higher  pressure.    The  compressor  makes  the  
pressure  difference  in  the  system,  and  it  pushes  or  forces  the  refrigerant  to  flow  
around  the  system.    

There  are  different  types  of  compressors.    They  include  reciprocating  or  piston,  
scroll,  rotary,  centrifugal,  and  screw-­‐type.    The  scroll  compressor  is  a  relatively  new  

Inspection  Restrictions  
Compressors  should  not  be  operated  when  it’s  below  65°  F  outside.    Compressors  
should  not  be  operated  when  the  electricity  has  been  turned  on  for  less  than  24  
hours.    Under  these  conditions,  it  is  possible  to  damage  the  compressor.    Oil  may  be  
mixed  with  the  refrigerant  in  the  base  of  the  compressor.    

Compressor  Heater  
Many  air-­‐conditioning  systems  have  a  heater  (a  sump  heater  or  crankcase  heater)  
installed  on  the  bottom  of  the  compressor.    The  heater  keeps  the  oil  at  the  base  of  
the  compressor  warm  enough  to  boil  off  the  refrigerant.    The  heater  may  be  internal  
(not  visible),  or  visible  on  the  outside  as  a  ring  wrapped  around  the  compressor  
base.    If  the  electricity  has  been  turned  off  to  the  system,  it  may  take  12  to  24  hours  
for  the  heater  to  warm  up  the  oil  sufficiently  to  boil  off  the  refrigerant.    

In  a  typical  air-­‐conditioning  split  system,  the  condenser  unit  (or  outdoor  coil)  is  
located  outside.    A  condenser  condenses  or  liquefies  gas  by  cooling  it.    When  the  
condenser  is  running,  hot  refrigerant  gas  coming  from  the  compressor  enters  the  
condenser  coil  at  the  top.    As  it  passes  down  through  the  condenser  coil,  it  cools.  The  
compressor  is  located  inside  the  condenser  unit.    

The  condenser  can  be  a  plain  tube  design,  finned  tube,  or  plate-­‐type.    It  can  be  a  
series-­‐pass  or  parallel-­‐pass  type.    Condenser  units  can  be  air-­‐cooled  (the  most  
common  for  residential  installations),  water-­‐cooled,  or  a  combination  of  the  two.    

An  air-­‐cooled  condenser  is  made  up  of  a  coil  that  air  blows  across  to  cool  the  hot  gas  
that's  passing  through  the  coil.    There  is  a  fan  inside  the  condenser  that  pushes  the  
air  through  the  coil.    Heat  is  transferred  from  the  hot  gases  that  are  moving  in  the  
coil  to  the  air  passing  through  the  coil.    

If  you  put  your  hand  in  the  path  of  the  air  blowing  out  of  an  operating  condenser,  
it  should  feel  warm.    

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Air-­‐cooled  condensers  must  be  maintained  and  kept  clean  and  free  from  debris  and  
damage.    The  fins  on  the  condenser  coils  can  be  easily  damaged  and  bent.    Damaged  
and  bent  fins  can  block  the  air  flow  through  the  condenser  coil.    A  fin  comb  is  an  
implement  that  can  be  used  to  straighten  the  fins  back  to  their  original  position.  

An  evaporator  is  sometimes  called  an  evaporator  coil,  cooling  coil,  and  indoor  
blower  coil.    In  a  typical  residential  air-­‐conditioning  system,  the  evaporator  absorbs  
the  heat  energy  from  the  air  passing  through  it.    It  transfers  the  heat  energy  from  
the  passing  air  to  the  refrigerant  moving  inside  it.    As  the  liquid  refrigerant  absorbs  
the  heat,  it  is  boiled  off  or  evaporated  as  it  moves  through  the  evaporator.    The  
house's  air  temperature  drops  as  it  passes  through  the  coil,  pushed  by  the  blower  

Evaporators  are  usually  made  of  copper  tubing  with  closely  spaced  aluminum  
fins.    There  are  about  14  aluminum  fins  per  inch  of  copper  tubing.    This  type  of  
finned  coil  provides  a  very  good  surface  area  for  transferring  heat.    Some  coils  are  
made  of  aluminum  tubing,  which  does  not  last  as  long  as  copper  tubing.  

The  evaporator  coil  is  sometimes  called  an  A-­‐coil  because  some  are  shaped  like  the  
letter  A.    Some  coils  are  called  slab  coils  because  they  appear  like  a  slab  tilted  at  an  
angle.    Coils  have  a  condensate  tray  underneath  to  catch  the  condensate  water  
draining  off  the  coil.    

Similar  to  the  condenser,  the  evaporator  coil  must  be  maintained  and  kept  clean  and  
free  from  dirt,  dust  and  damage.  

A  refrigerant  is  a  substance  that  absorbs  heat  as  it  expands  or  vaporizes.    A  good  
refrigerant  has  a  low  boiling  point  and  functions  with  a  positive  pressure.    

The  two  most  commonly  used  refrigerants  in  older  air-­‐conditioning  systems  are  R-­‐
12  (Freon®  12)  and  R-­‐22  (Freon®  22).    R-­‐12  has  a  boiling  point  of  -­‐21.8°  F  at    

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atmospheric  pressure.    R-­‐22  has  a  boiling  point  of  -­‐41.4°  F.    

R-­‐410A  is  replacing  those  older  refrigerants  because  it  does  not  deplete  ozone.    R-­‐
410A  can  be  recognized  by  its  various  trade  names,  including  Genetron®  AZ-­‐20®,  
DuPont™  Suva®,  and  Puron®.      

Expansion  Device  
An  expansion  device  changes  the  refrigerant  from  a  high-­‐pressure,  high-­‐
temperature  liquid  to  a  low-­‐pressure,  low-­‐temperature  liquid.    It  is  installed  just  
before  the  evaporator.    There  are  two  common  expansion  devices:  

• capillary  tubes;  and  

• thermostatic  expansion  valves.  

The  expansion  device  controls  the  flow  of  liquid  refrigerant  that  enters  the  
evaporator  coil.    If  the  valve  becomes  faulty,  the  flow  of  refrigerant  may  be  
restricted.    The  proper  operation  of  the  valve  is  largely  dependent  on  the  proper  
installation  of  the  sensor  bulb  (or  feeler  bulb).    The  bulb  needs  to  be  in  firm  contact  
with  the  line  of  the  evaporator.    

The  capillary  tube  is  a  coil  of  small-­‐diameter  copper  tubing.    It  is  designed  to  create  
a  restriction  or  bottleneck  in  the  liquid  line.    The  refrigerant  comes  out  of  the  small-­‐
diameter  tube  and  expands  as  it  enters  a  larger-­‐diameter  tube.    This  expansion  
lowers  the  pressure  and  temperature.    

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A  thermostatic  expansion  valve  is  another  expansion  device.    It  is  a  more  precise  
device  than  the  capillary  tube.    It  controls  the  flow  of  refrigerant  by  sensing  the  heat  
that  is  coming  out  of  the  evaporator  coil.    A  sensing  bulb  is  mounted  on  the  outlet  
pipe,  downstream  of  the  coil.    

Refrigerant  Piping  
The  air-­‐conditioning  system  has  refrigerant  traveling  through  small-­‐diameter  
copper  pipes  or  tubing.    They  are  called  refrigerant  lines.    

The  suction  line  is  the  pipe  from  the  evaporator  coil  (inside  the  house)  to  the  
compressor  (inside  the  condenser  unit).    The  suction  line  carries  the  vapor  
(not  liquid).    

The  liquid  line  is  the  pipe  from  the  condenser  coil  (in  the  condenser  unit)  to  the  
evaporator.    The  liquid  line  carries  the  liquid  (not  the  vapor).    
All  lines  should  be  checked  for  damage  and  bent  sections.    A  squeezed  or  pinched    

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line  will  restrict  proper  flow.    

The  suction  and  liquid  lines  should  not  touch  or  come  in  contact  with  one  
another.    The  warm  liquid  line  would  transfer  heat  to  the  cooler  suction  line.  

If  the  evaporator  (indoor  unit)  is  installed  higher  in  elevation  than  the  condenser  
(outdoor  unit),  there  should  ideally  be  a  slope  to  the  suction  line  with  a  fall  of  ¼-­‐
inch  per  linear  foot  toward  the  condenser  (outdoor  unit).    

A  filter  removes  particles  from  the  liquid  refrigerant  and  from  the  oil.    A  dryer  (drier  
or  dehydrator)  removes  moisture  from  the  refrigerant.    The  filter-­‐dryer  device  is  a  
combination  of  the  two.    It  is  usually  installed  in  the  liquid  line.  

Electrical  Disconnect  
According  to  modern  standards,  air-­‐conditioning  condensing  units  and  heat  pump  
units  should  have  a  readily  accessible  electrical  disconnect  within  sight  of  the  unit  as  
the  only  allowable  means.  The  disconnect  is  allowed  to  be  installed  on  or  within  the  
unit,  but  it  should  not  be  located  on  panels  designed  to  allow  access  to  the  unit.  

Quiz  8  
T/F:  Gas-­‐compression  cooling  involves  the  compression  and  expansion  of  
refrigerant  gas  and  the  transfer  of  heat.  

• True  
• False  

The  efficiency  of  a  cooling  system  in  a  residential  installation  is  expressed  in  terms  
of  its  ______.  

• SEER  
• UFAE  
• SEAR  

The  __________  is  located  inside  the  outdoor  condenser  unit  and  receives  the  low-­‐
pressure  refrigerant  vapor  through  the  suction  line,  and  compresses  or  squeezes  it  
into  a  smaller  volume  at  a  higher  pressure.  

• compressor  
• condenser  
• evaporator  

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In  a  typical  residential  air-­‐conditioning  system,  the  __________  absorbs  the  heat  
energy  from  the  air  passing  through  it,  and  transfers  the  heat  energy  from  the  
passing  air  to  the  refrigerant  moving  inside  it.  

• evaporator  
• capillary  tube  
• condenser  

According  to  modern  standards,  air-­‐conditioning  condensing  units  and  heat  pump  
units  should  have  a  readily  accessible  electrical  disconnect  within  _____  of  the  unit.  

• sight  
• 50  feet  
• 1  foot  

Section  21:  Heat  Pumps  

Heat  Pumps  
A  heat  pump  transfers  heat  from  one  place  to  another.    It  takes  heat  from  the  
outdoor  air  and  brings  it  to  the  inside  of  a  building  and  releases  it.    With  the  use  of  a  
reversing  valve,  the  heat  pump  can  also  take  heat  from  the  indoor  air  and  release  it  
outside.    During  the  “reversed”  cycle,  the  heat  pump  operates  just  like  an  air-­‐
conditioning  system.    Both  the  indoor  coil  and  outdoor  coil  may  act  as  either  an  
evaporator  or  a  condenser.    

Types  of  Heat  Pumps  

There  are  three  types  of  heat  pumps  used  in  residential  and  light  commercial  
installations.    They  are:  

• air-­‐source  heat  pumps;  

• ground-­‐source  heat  pumps;  and  
• water-­‐source  heat  pumps.  

Most  heat  pumps  used  in  residential  and  light  commercial  installations  are  split-­‐
system  heat  pumps.    A  split-­‐system  heat  pump  is  one  that  has  its  components  
divided,  with  the  condenser  unit  (which  holds  the  compressor)  installed  outside  the  
building,  and  the  evaporator  coil  (with  the  expansion  device)  located  inside  the  

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Air-­‐Source  Heat  Pumps  
An  air-­‐source  heat  pump  is  often  called  an  air-­‐to-­‐air  heat  pump,  which  uses  the  
outdoor  air  as  the  source  for  heat.    It  uses  the  outdoor  air  as  the  source  from  which  
to  absorb  heat  energy.    It  takes  that  heat  energy  from  the  outdoor  air  and  transfers  it  
to  the  interior  air  of  the  building.    

The  problem  with  air-­‐source  heat  pumps  occurs  when  the  heat  pump  is  operating  in  
the  cold  wintertime  and  there’s  very  little  heat  energy  in  the  outdoor  air  due  to  low  
outdoor  temperatures.    And  that  is  the  same  time  that  you  want  the  heat  pump  to  
produce  the  most  heat.    For  this  reason,  a  supplementary  radiant  heating  element  is  
integrated  into  the  system  to  be  used  during  those  conditions  of  very  cold  outdoor  
temperatures.    Air-­‐source  heat  pumps  work  well  in  areas  where  the  winter  
temperature  does  not  drop  below  30°  F  for  extended  periods  of  time.    

Ground-­‐Source  Heat  Pump  

A  ground-­‐source  heat  pump  is  sometimes  called  a  geothermal  heat  pump.    A  
ground-­‐source  heat  pump  uses  the  constant  temperature  of  the  earth  instead  of  the  
outdoor  air  as  the  heat  source  or  heat  sink,  depending  on  the  cycle.    A  heat-­‐transfer  
fluid  is  pushed  through  a  bunch  of  underground  high-­‐strength  plastic  pipes.    The  
pipes  are  often  coiled  and  looped  or  zigzagged.    Horizontal  loops  are  common  in  
residential  installations.    There  are  horizontal  closed-­‐loop,  spiral  closed-­‐loop,  and  
vertical  closed-­‐loop  systems.    

Ground-­‐source  heat  pumps  are  identified  by  many  other  names,  including:  

• water-­‐source  heat  pumps;  

• well-­‐water  heat  pumps;  
• direct-­‐expansion  heat  pumps;  
• geothermal  heat  pumps;  
• groundwater  heat  pumps;  
• earth-­‐coupled  heat  pumps;  
• ground-­‐coupled  heat  pumps;  and  
• open-­‐loop  heat  pumps.  


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Water-­‐Source  Heat  Pump  
A  water-­‐source  heat  pump  uses  water  as  the  heat  source  (or  heat  sink).    Water  is  the  
heat-­‐transfer  medium.    The  constant  temperature  of  the  water  source  is  used  
instead  of  the  variable  air  temperature.    The  compressor  and  controls  of  a  water-­‐
source  heat  pump  are  identical  to  those  in  a  ground-­‐source  heat  pump.  

Three  Cycles  
There  are  three  cycles  for  a  heat  pump:  

• the  heating  cycle;  

• cooling  cycle;  and  
• defrost  cycle.  

Heating  Cycle  
In  the  heating  cycle,  the  refrigerant  enters  the  outdoor  coil  or  condenser  unit  and  
moves  through  the  outdoor  coil.    Inside  the  coil,  the  refrigerant  starts  out  as  a  liquid  
in  a  low-­‐pressure,  low-­‐temperature  liquid  state.    The  liquid  absorbs  heat  energy  
from  the  outdoor  air  passing  through  the  coil.    The  temperature  of  the  liquid  is  
raised  up  to  its  boiling  point.    The  refrigerant  boils  into  a  hot  vapor  in  the  coil.    The  
compressor  then  compresses  the  gas.    The  vapor  pressure  is  increased.    The  high-­‐
pressure,  high-­‐temperature  vapor  is  pushed  through  the  suction  line  and  into  the  
evaporator  coil  (indoor  unit).    Heat  is  transferred  or  released  to  the  indoor  air  
(which  is  much  cooler  than  the  hot  vapor),  passing  through  the  evaporator  (indoor)  
coil.    The  cooler  air  passing  through  the  indoor  coil  causes  the  gas  to  cool  and  
condense  into  a  liquid,  which  is  still  under  high  pressure.    The  condensing  of  the  
high-­‐pressure,  high-­‐temperature  refrigerant  vapor  releases  heat  energy  to  the  
interior  air  of  the  building.    The  liquid  then  goes  through  a  pressure-­‐reducing  valve  
or  expansion  valve  and  becomes  a  low-­‐temperature,  low-­‐pressure  liquid.    This  
liquid  is  now  in  the  liquid  line  and  travels  to  the  outdoor  coil  or  condenser  unit,  
where  the  cycle  begins  again.    

The  reversing  valve  allows  the  refrigerant  to  flow  in  opposite  directions.    The  
compressor  pumps  the  refrigerant  in  a  cycle  that  can  be  reversed.    The  indoor  coil  
and  the  outdoor  coil  change  their  functions  based  on  the  cycle  called  for.    

Cooling  Cycle  
In  the  cooling  cycle,  the  valve  is  reversed,  and  the  compressor  pumps  the  refrigerant  
in  the  direction  that  results  in  the  heat-­‐pump  system  absorbing  heat  energy  from  
the  interior  air  and  releasing  it  outside.    The  heat-­‐pump  system  operates  just  like  a  
regular  air-­‐conditioning  system.    

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At  the  condenser,  the  hot  refrigerant  vapor  (vapor  with  a  lot  of  heat  energy)  is  
cooled  by  the  outdoor  air  being  blown  through  the  coils  of  the  condenser.    When  the  
air  passes  through  the  coils,  it  absorbs  some  of  the  refrigerant  heat.    As  the  passing  
air  absorbs  heat,  the  vapor  in  the  coil  gives  off  heat.    The  heat  is  transferred  from  the  
refrigerant  in  the  coil  to  the  air  passing  through.    Heat  that  was  absorbed  from  the  
indoor  air  is  released  outside.    

Defrost  Cycle  
When  a  heat  pump  is  operating  in  the  heating  mode  or  heat  cycle,  the  outdoor  air  is  
relatively  cool  and  the  outdoor  coil  acts  as  an  evaporator.    Under  certain  conditions  
of  temperature  and  relative  humidity,  frost  may  form  on  the  surface  of  the  outdoor  
coil.    This  layer  of  frost  will  interfere  with  the  operation  of  the  heat  pump  by  making  
the  pump  work  harder  and,  therefore,  inefficiently.    The  frost  must  be  removed.    A  
heat  pump  has  a  cycle  called  a  defrost  cycle,  which  automatically  removes  the  frost  
from  the  outdoor  coil.        

A  heat-­‐pump  unit  will  defrost  regularly  when  frost  conditions  occur.    The  defrost  
cycle  should  be  long  enough  to  melt  the  ice,  and  short  enough  to  be  energy-­‐efficient.    

In  the  defrost  cycle,  the  heat  pump  is  automatically  operated  in  reverse  for  a  
moment  in  the  cooling  cycle.    This  action  temporarily  warms  up  the  outdoor  coil  and  
melts  the  frost  from  the  coil.    In  this  defrost  cycle,  the  outdoor  fan  is  prevented  from  
turning  on  when  the  heat  pump  switches  over,  and  the  temperature  rise  of  the  
outdoor  coil  is  accelerated  and  increased.        

The  heat  pump  will  operate  in  the  defrost  cycle  until  the  outdoor  coil  temperature  
reaches  around  57°  F.    The  time  it  takes  to  melt  and  remove  accumulated  frost  from  
an  outdoor  coil  varies,  depending  on  the  amount  of  frost  and  the  internal  timing  
device  of  the  system.    

Interior  Heating  Element    

During  the  defrost  cycle  in  an  older  heat  pump,  the  indoor  unit  may  be  operating  
with  the  fan  blowing  cool  air.    To  prevent  cool  air  from  being  produced  and  
distributed  inside  the  house,  an  electric  heating  element  can  be  installed  and    

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engaged  at  the  same  time  as  the  defrost  cycle.    In  defrost  mode,  this  heating  element  
will  automatically  turn  on,  or  the  interior  blower  fan  will  turn  off.    The  heating  
component  is  wired  up  to  the  second  stage  of  a  two-­‐stage  thermostat.        

The  compressor  gets  the  refrigerant  vapor  at  low  pressure  and  compresses  or  
squeezes  it  into  a  high-­‐pressure,  high-­‐temperature  vapor.    Then  the  compressor  
pushes  the  vapor  to  one  of  the  coils,  depending  on  the  heating  or  cooling  cycle.  

The  Typical  Defrost  Cycle    

The  components  that  make  up  the  defrost  cycle  system  include  a  thermostat,  a  
timer,  and  a  relay.    There  is  a  special  thermostat  or  sensor  of  the  defrost  cycle  
system,  often  referred  to  as  the  frost  thermostat.    It  is  located  on  the  bottom  of  the  
outdoor  coil  where  it  can  detect  the  temperature  of  the  coil.        

When  the  outdoor  coil  temperature  drops  to  around  32°  F,  the  thermostat  closes  the  
circuit  and  makes  the  system  respond.    This  causes  an  internal  timer  to  start.    Many  
heat  pumps  have  a  generic  timer  that  energizes  the  defrost  relays  at  certain  
timed  intervals.  Some  generic  timers  will  energize  the  defrost  cycle  every  30,  60  and  
90  minutes.    

The  defrost  relays  turn  on  the  compressor,  switch  the  reversing  valve  of  the  heat  
pump,  turn  on  the  interior  electric  heating  element,  and  stop  the  fan  at  the  outdoor  
coil  from  spinning.    The  unit  is  now  in  the  defrost  cycle.        

The  unit  remains  in  the  defrost  cycle  (or  cooling  cycle)  until  the  thermostat  on  the  
bottom  of  the  outdoor  coil  senses  that  the  outdoor  coil  temperature  has  reached  
about  57°  F.    At  that  temperature,  the  outdoor  coil  should  be  free  of  frost.    The  frost  
thermostat  opens  the  circuit,  stops  the  timer,  and  then  the  defrost  cycle  stops,  the  
internal  heater  turns  off,  the  valve  reverses,  and  the  unit  returns  to  the  heating  
cycle.    A  typical  defrost  cycle  may  run  from  30  seconds  to  a  few  minutes.    The  
defrost  cycle  should  repeat  regularly  at  timed  intervals.    An  inspector  should  not  
observe  a  rapid  cycling  of  the  defrost  operation.    

In  summary,  certain  conditions  can  force  a  heat  pump  into  a  defrost  cycle  (or  
cooling  cycle)  when  the  fan  in  the  outdoor  coil  is  stopped,  the  indoor  fan  is  stopped  
or  electric  heat  is  turned  on,  and  the  frost  melts  and  is  removed  from  the  outdoor  
coils.    When  the  frost  thermostat  is  satisfied  (or  a  certain  pre-­‐set  time  period  
elapses),  the  outdoor  fan  comes  back  on,  and  the  heat  pump  goes  back  into  the  
heating  cycle.      

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One  problem  of  many  older  heat-­‐pump  systems  is  that  the  unit  will  operate  in  the  
defrost  cycle  regardless  of  whether  ice  is  present.    On  these  systems,  if  it’s  cold  
outside,  the  defrost  cycle  may  turn  on  when  it's  not  needed.    

If  the  defrost  cycle  is  not  working  properly,  the  outdoor  coil  will  look  like  a  big  block  
of  ice  and  the  unit  won't  function.    Damage  could  result  if  the  heat  pump  operates  
without  a  functional,  normally  operating  defrost  cycle.        

Causes  of  Frost    

There  are  many  reasons  why  an  inspector  may  find  frost  and  ice  stuck  on  an  
outdoor  coil  of  a  heat  pump  that  is  not  properly  defrosting.    

The  cause  of  a  frost  and  ice  problem  may  include:  

• a  bad  reversing  valve;  

• a  damaged  outdoor  coil;  
• a  wiring  problem;  
• a  bad  thermostat;  
• a  leak  in  the  refrigerant;  
• a  dirty  outdoor  coil  covered  with  grass,  dirt,  debris  and/or  pet  hair;  
• a  fan  that  won’t  turn  on;  
• a  fan  installed  backwards,  with  the  blades  running  in  the  wrong  direction;  
• a  motor  operating  in  the  incorrect  direction;  or  
• a  replacement  fan  motor  spinning  at  a  very  low  rpm.    

Diagnosing  apparent  problems  with  the  defrost  cycle  of  a  heat  pump  is  beyond  the  
scope  of  a  home  inspection,  but  such  conditions  should  be  deferred  to  a  technician  
for  further  evaluation  and  servicing  or  repair.    

Section  22:  Air  Cleaners  and  Filters  

Air  Cleaners  and  Filters  
All  indoor  air  contains  some  dust  and  dirt  particles.    Indoor  air  quality  can  be  a  
health  problem  for  those  who  are  sensitive  to  dust  or  pollen,  and  those  who  have  
allergies.      There  is  a  variety  of  air  filtering  devices  available.    There  are  devices  that    

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filter  dust,  dirt,  smoke,  pollen,  odors,  bacteria,  mold,  and  many  other  contaminants  
from  the  indoor  air.    They  are  not  equally  effective,  and  some  do  not  work  at  all.    An  
electronic  air  filter  is  one  of  the  most  common  types  of  high-­‐efficiency  filters  used  in  
home  systems.  

 Electronic  Air  Cleaners  

Electronic  air  filters  remove  airborne  particles  from  the  air  electronically,  and  they  
are  more  effective  than  conventional,  disposable  air  filters.    High-­‐efficiency  filters  
can  remove  about  80  to  90%  of  all  particles.    

Some  electronic  filters  have  a  charged  media  pad  or  mat  that  is  made  of  fiberglass,  
cellulose,  or  some  similar  material.    When  these  pads  get  clogged  or  dirty,  they  
usually  cannot  be  washed  and  require  replacement.    

Most  devices  have  a  built-­‐in  performance-­‐indicator  light  that  glows  red  when  the  
unit  is  operating  normally.    

Some  electronic  air  filters  are  two-­‐stage  filters.    Air  particles  pass  through  not  just  
one  filtering  device,  but  two  electrically  charged  filters.    There  is  typically  a  
permanent  screen  or  pre-­‐filtering  device.    This  first  filter  catches  the  larger  particles  
before  moving  to  the  first  electronic  filter.    In  the  first  filter,  the  particles  receive  an  
intense  positive  charge.    The  positively  charged  particles  are  then  attracted  to  the  
next  filter  that  has  collector  plates.    These  plates  are  alternately  charged  with  
positive  and  negative  voltages.    The  particles  adhere  to  the  negatively  charged  
plates  until  the  filter  is  washed.    

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Many  electronic  air  filters  have  a  pre-­‐filter  (or  lint  filter)  and  an  after-­‐filter.    The  
after-­‐filter  is  installed  after  the  second  set  of  charged  collector  plates.    

Electronic  air  filters  need  to  be  cleaned  once  every  one  to  six  months.    Most  
electronic  air  filters  can  be  washed  in  the  dishwasher,  but  the  manufacturer's  
recommendations  should  be  followed.    When  the  filters  are  put  back  into  place,  they  
must  be  re-­‐inserted  correctly  so  that  the  air  flows  in  the  proper  direction.    There  are  
usually  directional  arrows  marked  on  the  filter  components  to  guide  their  proper  

Conventional  Air  Filters  

Conventional  air  filters  are  not  as  efficient  as  electronic  air  filters.    They  are  
commonly  used  in  furnaces.    They  are  designed  to  trap  and  remove  particles  and  
contaminants  from  the  air.    A  conventional  air  filter  can  be  expected  to  remove  
about  10%  of  airborne  particles  from  the  air.    

Conventional  air  filters  should  be  inspected  regularly,  depending  on  the  
manufacturer’s  recommendations.    Replacement  or  disposable  air  filters  should  be  
checked  once  a  month.    

Easy  access  to  the  air  filter  must  be  provided,  without  the  need  of  special  tools  or  
knowledge.    When  a  replacement  filter  is  installed,  it  must  be  of  the  same  size  
and  dimensions  of  the  original.    Filters  should  be  installed  and  located  on  the  cool-­‐
air  return-­‐side  of  the  furnace.    A  dirty  or  clogged  filter  will  affect  the  performance  of  
the  heating  and  cooling  system.      

Section  23:  Humidifiers  

A  humidifier  adds  moisture  to  the  air  primarily  by  evaporation,  by  the  use  of  steam,  
or  by  spraying  water  particles.    


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A  bypass  humidifier  is  a  common  type.    It  contains  an  evaporator  pad,  drum,  
and  wheel  or  belt.    The  pad  gets  wet  and  absorbs  moisture.    Warm  air  from  the  
supply  duct  passes  over  the  wet  pad,  causes  the  water  to  evaporate,  and  results  in  
adding  humidity  to  the  air.    

The  operation  of  a  humidifier  is  controlled  by  a  humidistat  that  may  be  mounted  in  
a  room  or  on  a  furnace  duct.    

Many  humidifiers  use  a  bypass  duct.    The  bypass  duct  goes  between  the  supply  duct  
and  the  return  plenum.    A  damper  should  be  installed  in  this  bypass  duct  pipe.    The  
damper  is  closed  off  when  the  humidifier  is  not  in  operation,  typically  during  the  
summer  months.  

The  common  location  for  a  bypass  humidifier  is  on  the  underside  of  a  horizontal  
warm-­‐air  supply  duct,  close  to  the  furnace.    Humidifiers  are  also  installed  on  the  
sides  of  furnace  plenums.    The  warm-­‐air  plenum  is  the  most  desirable  location  for  a  
humidifier.    The  manufacturer’s  recommendations  for  installation  must  be  


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Moisture  from  humidifiers  may  support  microbial  growth  on  wet  surfaces  where  it  
can  condense  during  cold  weather.    Humidifiers  that  discharge  small  droplets  of  
water  from  a  reservoir  are  prone  to  support  mold  growth.    Moisture  accumulation  
inside  dirty  ductwork  creates  a  suitable  environment  for  mold  growth.    The  
reservoir  of  the  humidifier  becomes  contaminated,  to  some  degree.    Humidifiers  
should  be  considered  potential  sources  of  mold  growth.  

All  humidifiers  use  water,  so  delayed  maintenance  at  a  humidifier  may  cause  indoor  
air-­‐quality  issues  for  sensitive  people.    If  there  is  a  reservoir  of  water  in  the  
humidifier,  then  it  needs  to  be  drained  and  cleaned  regularly.    Humidifiers  need  
regular  maintenance,  including  cleaning,  and  the  removal  of  lime  and  other  
residue.    Any  moisture  pads  or  media  need  to  be  replaced  regularly,  usually  every  
month  while  the  humidifier  is  in  regular  operation.    

Indoor  relative  humidity  (RH)  should  be  between  20  and  40%  in  the  winter,  and  
less  than  60%  during  the  rest  of  the  year.    Some  experts  recommend  that  indoor  
humidity  levels  in  general  should  be  between  40  and  60%.  

Understanding  relative  humidity  in  a  building  is  essential  to  controlling  mold  
growth.    Relative  humidity  (RH)  is  a  ratio,  expressed  as  a  percentage,  of  the  amount  
of  moisture  in  the  air  to  the  maximum  amount  of  moisture  that  the  air  can  
hold.    Warm  air  can  hold  more  moisture  than  cool  air.    RH  is  a  factor  in  determining  
how  much  moisture  is  present  in  a  room,  but  it  is  the  available  moisture  in  a  
substrate,  and  not  the  RH  of  the  room’s  air,  that  determines  whether  mold  can  

Many  sources  recommend  maintaining  RH  in  living  spaces  below  60%  to  limit  
microbial  growth.    By  keeping  RH  below  60%,  one  may  assume  that  the  moisture  
content  in  building  materials  would  be  low.    However,  this  assumption  may  be  false  
because  mold  grows  on  surfaces  and  in  building  materials,  not  in  the  air.    Therefore,  
it  is  the  RH  in  the  air  adjacent  to  the  surface,  and  not  the  ambient  RH,  which  must  be  
lowered  in  order  to  control  mold  growth.    Measuring  a  room  with  a  relative  
humidity  at  or  below  60%  may  mean  that  the  building  materials  are  fairly  dry,  but  it    

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does  not  eliminate  the  possibility  of  mold  growth  because  local  cold  spots  and  water  
intrusion  may  allow  the  RH  of  the  air  adjacent  to  the  surface  to  exceed  70%.    

Moisture  meters  are  essential  for  inspectors;  they  enable  you  to  identify  damp  areas  
that  would  not  be  evident  otherwise.    Infrared  thermography  cameras  are  praised  
for  their  ability  to  detect  moisture  that  is  not  readily  visible  to  the  naked  eye.    Damp  
areas  appear  as  cold  spots,  with  gradient  imaging  appearing  dark.  

Section  24:  Electric  Furnaces  

Electric  Furnaces  
Electric  furnaces  produce  heat  almost  instantly  because  there  are  no  heat  
exchangers  to  warm  up.    The  heating  elements  of  an  electric  furnace  start  producing  
heat  as  soon  as  the  thermostat  calls  for  heat.    There  is  no  flame,  no  combustion,  and  
no  venting  of  gases  to  the  outside.    An  electric  furnace  is  100%  efficient.    Electric  
furnaces  can  be  upflow,  downflow,  or  horizontal.    

All  heating  systems  require  access  for  service  and  maintenance,  including  electric  
furnaces.    A  clearance  of  24  to  30  inches  should  be  provided  in  front  of  the  heating  
Electric  furnaces  need  very  little  to  no  clearance  between  the  furnace  and  
combustibles  but  should  still  have  24  to  30  inches  of  open  space  in  front  for  service  
and  maintenance.  
The  components  of  an  electric  furnace  include:  

• automatic  controls;  
• heating  elements;  
• safety  controls;  
• blower  fan  and  motor;  and  
• air  filtering.  

A  thermostat  controls  the  operation  of  the  furnace.    The  thermostat  senses  the  air  
temperature  in  the  room  or  space  that  is  being  heated.    When  the  thermostat  calls  
for  heat,  it  sends  a  signal  to  the  first  heating  circuit.    The  heating  circuit  turns  on,  
and  there  is  usually  a  slight  delay  (15  seconds),  and  then  the  blower  fan  turns  

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on.    Another  delay  (30  seconds)  happens  before  the  second  heating  circuit  turns  
on.    All  other  heating  circuits  turn  on  in  a  similar  fashion.    

Heating  Elements  
An  electric  heating  element  has  to  get  very  hot  -­‐-­‐  hotter  than  its  surroundings  -­‐-­‐  to  
deliver  the  desired  level  of  heat.    It  may  get  red-­‐hot  or  nearly  white-­‐hot.    

Wires  with  high  heat  resistance  are  used  for  heating  elements.    These  include  iron,  
chromium,  nickel,  manganese,  and  alloy  wires.  

Controls  and  Components  

Electric  furnaces  have  a  variety  of  safety  controls  installed  in  them.    The  controls  
protect  the  unit  against  overloading  of  electric  current  and  from  excessively  high  
temperatures.    The  controls  include:  

• furnace  fuses;  
• temperature-­‐limit  controls;  
• circuit  breakers;  
• transformers;  and  
• thermal  overload  protectors.  

One  of  the  most  important  components  of  an  electric  furnace  is  the  air  filter.    A  
clogged  filter  will  cause  the  furnace  to  run  inefficiently  by  making  it  run  harder  and  
longer.    Air  filters  should  be  checked  regularly  –-­‐  every  month.    Maintenance  and  
repair  should  be  conducted  by  a  qualified  technician  because  deadly  high-­‐voltage  
conditions  exist  within  the  electric  heating  system.    The  electrical  supply  should  be  
turned  off  prior  to  servicing  the  unit.  



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